Low-carbohydrate diets and all-cause mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies.PLoS One 2013; 8(1):e55030Plos
Low-carbohydrate diets and their combination with high-protein diets have been gaining widespread popularity to control weight. In addition to weight loss, they may have favorable short-term effects on the risk factors of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Our objective was to elucidate their long-term effects on mortality and CVD incidence.
MEDLINE, EMBASE, ISI Web of Science, Cochrane Library, and ClinicalTrials.gov for relevant articles published as of September 2012. Cohort studies of at least one year's follow-up period were included.
Identified articles were systematically reviewed and those with pertinent data were selected for meta-analysis. Pooled risk ratios (RRs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for all-cause mortality, CVD mortality and CVD incidence were calculated using the random-effects model with inverse-variance weighting.
We included 17 studies for a systematic review, followed by a meta-analysis using pertinent data. Of the 272,216 people in 4 cohort studies using the low-carbohydrate score, 15,981 (5.9%) cases of death from all-cause were reported. The risk of all-cause mortality among those with high low-carbohydrate score was significantly elevated: the pooled RR (95% CI) was 1.31 (1.07-1.59). A total of 3,214 (1.3%) cases of CVD death among 249,272 subjects in 3 cohort studies and 5,081 (2.3%) incident CVD cases among 220,691 people in different 4 cohort studies were reported. The risks of CVD mortality and incidence were not statistically increased: the pooled RRs (95% CIs) were 1.10 (0.98-1.24) and 0.98 (0.78-1.24), respectively. Analyses using low-carbohydrate/high-protein score yielded similar results.
Low-carbohydrate diets were associated with a significantly higher risk of all-cause mortality and they were not significantly associated with a risk of CVD mortality and incidence. However, this analysis is based on limited observational studies and large-scale trials on the complex interactions between low-carbohydrate diets and long-term outcomes are needed.