What is more harmful to health – sugar or fat? The answer will surprise

Science and Health

The debate about what is more harmful to human health – fat or sugar – has continued for many years. Over the years, many studies have been done, but now, a new study has come to the following conclusion: a low-fat diet is the best. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, fat was routinely associated with heart disease and high cholesterol, but recent research suggests that carbohydrates, which turn into sugars in the body, are also quite the enemy of health. 

The latest study confirmed that it put an end to the ongoing controversy, as researchers found that a low-fat diet can reduce the risk of death each year by up to 34%, while low-carb diets increase the risk of death by up to 38%. The study pointed out the importance of maintaining a healthy diet with less saturated fat, in order to prevent deaths, especially among middle-aged and elderly people. In the study, all low-fat diet outcomes were associated with reduced overall mortality, suggesting remarkable health benefits of reducing dietary fat for health once again.

Diet and chronic diseases

Researchers from Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, along with Chinese scientists, collected data from the 1990s on 371,159 Americans, aged 50 to 71 at the start of the study. Using the NIH-AARP Nutrition and Health Study, a 1995 survey that began measuring relationships between diet and chronic disease among older adults, they looked for links between diet and longevity.

In the survey, the participants were asked how often they ate 124 different foods, and using the information, the researchers calculated how often a person ate carbohydrates and fats. The participants were divided into groups, with 20% of those who ate the least amount of carbohydrates placed in a control group, compared to 20% whose diet contained the most carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates 311 (credit: Courtesy)

They were then classified as eating a low-fat or low-carbohydrate diet as “healthy” or “unhealthy,” based on whether they got food from high-quality or “low-quality” sources. For example, someone who follows a low-fat diet and eats a lot of lean meat and vegetables will be on a “healthy” diet, while someone who eats refined sugars and processed foods will be considered to have an “unhealthy” diet.

Premature death

The results of the study found that people who ate a low-fat diet, whether healthy or not, had a significantly reduced likelihood of dying prematurely from health-related causes – compared to people who ate a high-fat diet. The risk dropped by 21% in people who ate any low-fat diet, and those who ate an “unhealthy” low-fat diet still had an 8% lower risk of dying from health causes than those who ate an unhealthy, high-fat diet.