High-carb diet makes a comeback

February 4, 2004 in Nutrition Topics in the News

High-carb diet makes a comeback

A small study suggests that people who shun the popular low-carb diet and eat lots of carbohydrates - but avoid fats - can shed pounds. And that's without even cutting calories or exercising.

Among 34 overweight people who followed different regimens for three months, those who were told to eat a high-carb, low-fat diet until they were no longer hungry lost 7 pounds. Adding moderate exercise to the diet increased weight loss to 11 pounds.  High-carb eaters also lost a higher percentage of body fat and experienced a larger decrease in thigh size than people who followed a diet that was lower in carbohydrates and higher in fat.

On average, people following the lower-carb diet did not lose any weight during the study period. "If you just simply reduce fat in the diet, and allow people to eat as much carbohydrates as they want, they lose weight," said the lead researcher from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

These findings appear at a time when the Atkins diet and other low-carb fare are more popular than ever. However, some researchers and health professionals remain skeptical of low-carb diets, especially the Atkins diet, which has been criticized for touting the benefits of liberal amounts of steak, eggs and fatty foods linked with increased cholesterol and heart disease.

The current study involved 34 people, an average of 66 years old, who were sedentary, overweight nonsmokers. One group of people ate what the researchers described as a "typical" American diet: roughly 40 percent fat and 45 percent carbohydrates. The others consumed a diet that contained around 20 percent fat, 60 percent carbohydrate and 20 percent protein. Participants were provided with all meals, and returned any uneaten portions so that the researchers could measure precisely how many calories they consumed.

The high-carb diet likely helped people lose weight because they ate the same amount that they normally did, but less fat. Although the researchers conceded that the popular low-carb diets may, in fact, help people lose weight, they do so by inducing a process in the body that curbs appetite. Consequently, once people abandon the diet, their appetite can increase, causing them to gain back what they once lost.

In contrast, a high-carb diet does not appear to change appetite, enabling you to shed excess pounds for good.

(LB: A variety of factors influence weight loss and appetite, including exercise, the types of carbohydrates consumed, the Glycogen Index of foods, and the satiating effects of protein, fat and carbohydrates.)

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.