Carbohydrates, or at Least Certain Kinds, are Good for you, According to the World Health Organization

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A newly released World Health Organization study reveals that low-carb diets may be in conflict with its new findings, including that a diet high in whole-grain breads, cereals and oats reduces coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer by 16-to-24 percent. Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The World Health Organization has recently announced that a high-fiber diet of good carbohydrates can potentially reduce the risk of heart disease and decrease the possibility of related diseases like diabetes, strokes and colorectal cancer.

"Here we have got very strong evidence that a high-fiber diet, which for the majority of people is at least high-ish in carbohydrates, has an enormous protective effect – a wide range of diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer benefit from a high-carbohydrate diet," Professor Jim Mann of the University of Otago in New Zealand told The Guardian this week.

In the WHO report, published in The Lancet medical journal, so-called "good" carbohydrates such as oats and whole-grain bread, cereal and pasta help protect against the onset of heart disease and early death.

The kicker: the study goes against the grain of trendy low-carbohydrate diets, which may irk food manufacturers pushing such diet products, reported The Guardian.

Professor Jim Mann of the University of Otago in New Zealand told The Guardian that research from the latest study "does contribute to the debate considerably."

The study revealed that individuals throughout the world eat less than 20 grams per day, but it recommends that a person should eat at least between 25 and 29 grams of fiber per day, with 30 grams even better.

Those who eat the most fiber result in a 15-to-30 percent reduction in deaths from all causes, including heart disease.

Specifically, the study showed that such a high-fiber diet reduces coronary heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer by 16-to-24 percent.

The results? The high-fiber diet means 13 fewer deaths and six fewer cases of coronary heart disease for every 1,000 people who eat high-fiber foods, compared with those who do not.

Mann also gave another tip in maintaining weight under the new, if not controversial, report:

"Fiber-rich whole foods that require chewing and retain much of their structure in the gut increase satiety and help weight control and can favorably influence lipid and glucose levels," said Mann.

The WHO defines an unhealthy diet as one of the major risk factors for a range of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and other conditions linked to obesity. Specific recommendations for a healthy diet include: eating more fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts and grains; cutting down on salt, sugar and fats. It is also advisable to choose unsaturated fats, instead of saturated fats and towards the elimination of trans-fatty acids.

Furthermore, WHO provides a broader solution world-wide, posting on its website that "Improving dietary habits is a societal, not just an individual problem. Therefore it demands a population-based, multisectoral, multi-disciplinary, and culturally relevant approach."