If you were planning on baking a big pan of lasagna for dinner, you might want to think twice. According to a new study by researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, eating a diet high in carbohydrates can wreak havoc on gene expression, increasing your risk of inflammation, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and dementia. The study indicated that the ideal diet was something like the Zone diet, with a relatively equal balance of carbohydrate, protein and fat.
To conduct their study, researchers fed a group of slightly overweight men and women two different diets. One was composed of 65 percent carbs, 15 percent protein and 20 percent fat, and the other was made up of equal parts of each. Eating the high-carb diet quickly led to problems in gene expression and inflammation; researchers said that they saw changes for the worse within six days.
The study also found benefits to eating smaller, more frequent meals, according to Berit Johansen, one of the study's researchers.
"It is better to spread your calories out over the day's meals rather than to cram in a huge dinner," says Johansen. "And both an evening snack and breakfast are good. It is obviously not good to go to sleep when you are stuffed full, but the body needs to refuel after dinner, too. So that means three main meals a day and 2-3 snacks, all balanced."
This study is the first to analyze a link between gene expression and high carb diets, but it isn't the first to show that such diets can be risky. A 2009 study from Tel Aviv University indicated that the high glycemic index levels that result from eating carbohydrates can put a strain on the cardiovascular system. And a widely publicized study from this summer identified processed starches and potatoes as two leading causes of weight gain in America.