Evaluate facts in articles before making dietary changes

The recent article, "Low-carb diet linked to shorter lifespan: Study" (Aug 18), has triggered a media frenzy and many social conversations.

It is therefore not surprising that many people are misinterpreting the original findings, while others are left confounded as to what specific public health message the original study had intended.

After a thorough review of the article originally published in The Lancet journal, I concluded that the study intended two key messages.

First, both low-carbohydrate and high-carbohydrate diets were linked to shorter lifespans, with those on moderate-carbohydrate diets (50 to 55 per cent of energy) at the lowest risk of a shorter lifespan.

Second, the quality of accompanying protein and fats matters. People who ate a lot of meat and fats to replace the carbohydrates, or meat-based, low-carb diets, had a higher risk of early death compared with those who obtained their protein and fats from plant-based food sources such as vegetables, nuts and wholegrain breads, or plant-based, low-carb diets.

Some of this information was embedded in various news articles, but the emphasis often got lost in the lengthy text.

While the onus of putting out attention-grabbing and factually accurate headlines ought to be on the media, I would equally urge readers not to take them at face value.

More importantly, readers should take the time to properly read through such news reports in order to evaluate the facts before arriving at conclusions and, consequently, adopting dietary changes which could potentially impact their health.

Mary Chong (Dr)

Assistant Professor

NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 27, 2018, with the headline Evaluate facts in articles before making dietary changes. Subscribe