If you are attempting to lose weight by drastically cutting down on carbohydrates and fat, such a practice could shorten your lifespan. So says a new Japanese research which found that men who severely restricted carbohydrates and women who almost had no fat increased their risk of all-cause mortality.
While carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy, with men having a higher requirement for them, women need fat for its role in the production of female hormones, oestrogen and progesterone. “Both are needed for metabolism. The finding takes us back to the old logic that a balanced diet in moderation is the only route to sustainable weight loss,” says Dr Vaishali Verma, Consultant, Nutrition And Dietetics, HCMCT Manipal Hospital, Dwarka. All guidelines say that we should get 45 per cent to 65 per cent of our total daily calories from carbohydrates and 25 to 35 per cent from fats.
Why are carbohydrates and fat essential for both men and women?
Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy and everyone requires an adequate amount for optimal physical and mental functions. They are needed for muscle growth and repair. Apart from ensuring hormonal balance in women, fat is the medium for transporting vitamins A, E and K, all of which are fat-soluble only. Fats keep your skin healthy, the body hydrated and help in contraction and expansion of muscles, which help women during delivery.
What are the best sources of carbohydrates and fats?
Yes, there are healthier versions of carbohydrates and fats. Choose complex carbohydrates that prevent blood sugar spikes, are fibre-rich, hence good for satiety and controlling appetite. They also ensure a longer spell of energy. You would find them in whole grains like oats, quinoa, broken wheat, millets, all kinds of vegetables, fruits and nuts. Stay away from refined flour and processed foods.
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Nuts and seeds are the best source of good fat, the unsaturated ones, be it monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. You can use sunflower oil, rice bran and coconut oil in combination as a cooking medium. Keep away from transfats used in packaged food and bakery products. Don’t reheat oil for cooking. Avoid deep frying.
Can the Japanese study apply to India?
It is important to note that Indian men and women may have different dietary needs than people in Japan. Indians tend to consume more carbohydrate and fat anyway to support their traditional diet and a lifestyle. Here any dietary advice has to be correlated with our mostly sedentary lifestyle and level of physical activity to ensure that calories do not pile up. The Japanese tend to have a more disciplined lifestyle and are into physical activity. One has also to factor in comorbidities like diabetes, obesity and dyslipidemia.
Sometimes low carb diets work for those who are obese and help them reduce their weight gradually. Many other studies have found that a low carbohydrate, low fat diet is effective in reducing body weight and improving blood glucose and lipid profiles. So diets should be individualised and designed by your dietician to match your health status. People should not decide on their own without knowing the pros and cons.