Can Low-Carb Kill?

To maintain that awesome physique, a low-carb diet with lots of protein is a must. Right? For once, no one is arguing that. But the message in a recent report published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in September 2010 is already being (mis)used by a slew of mainstream media sources to scaremonger.

First, the facts. For two decades, researchers from Harvard University and the National University of Singapore compared the health effects of a low-carbohydrate, vegetable-based diet and a low-carbohydrate, animal-based diet. What they found was that the latter was associated with a higher risk for overall mortality, while the former resulted in reduced death risk from all causes. But before you get too nervous about your biweekly steak dinner, read the fine print.

The study’s researchers admit that refined carbs are disease-promoting foods. But more important, they’re not blaming the plenitude of animal protein in the animal-based plan for that group’s higher mortality rates. Rather, they’re blaming the relative lack of vegetal phytonutrients and fiber, vitamins and minerals. In plain English: The low-carb animal-protein dieters they studied tended to eat a lot of meat and not so much veg.

Solution? Serve your steak with mounds of salad, heaps of spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, beets and greens, greens, greens. Eat carrots, beans, pumpkin, bok choy, arugula, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, onions, asparagus, artichokes, cucumbers and peppers. Eat that, a lot of meat and as few processed carbs as possible, and you’ll outlive them all — and look great doing so. — Jordana Brown