When it comes to a healthy diet, many of us assume we’re supposed to cut out fats and instead stick with carbohydrates and whatever low-fat items we can find at our local bodega (giant tubs of fat-free yogurt, anyone?). Yet, a large new study found that higher fat intake might actually be better for us than consuming a ton of carbs.
The Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study, recently published in the Lancet, analyzed the dietary intake of 135,335 people in 18 countries, ranging in age from 35 to 70 years old. The study participants recorded their diets using food questionnaires, and their health was followed for an average of more than seven years, STAT News reports.
Using that data, researchers found that people who had the highest dietary fat intake — 35 percent of their daily calories — were 23 percent less likely to have died during the study period than those who had the lowest fat intake (only 10 percent of their daily calories). The risk of cardiovascular disease was about the same for all different levels of fat intake, but the risk of stroke was lower for those who consumed higher amounts of fat.
On the other hand, the study found that high carbohydrate intake had basically the opposite effect on a person’s health. The New York Times notes that study participants who had the highest carbohydrate intake had a 28 percent increased risk of premature death as compared to those who consumed the least amount of carbs. However, high carbohydrate intake was not linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular death.
Of course, these observational findings don’t mean we should all start binging on unhealthy, fatty foods — instead, it suggests that healthy fats (e.g. avocado, olive oil, and salmon) should be a part of our balanced diets. “These results point to the fact that human biology is very similar across the globe,” Dr. Eric Rimm, of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told STAT News. “It’s not healthy to eat highly processed carbohydrates no matter where you live.”