Quality, not quantity, of carbohydrate linked to overweight

February 23, 2005 in Nutrition Topics in the News, Weight Management

Quality, not quantity, of carbohydrate linked to overweight

A recent study shows that when it comes to carbohydrates, it is not how much you eat, but which kind, that makes a difference in terms of obesity.

Researchers report that people who are overweight do not appear to eat more carbohydrates overall than people who weigh less. However, they found that overweight people tend to eat more refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pasta, which cause a rapid spike in blood sugar. Researchers claim that it is the type of carbohydrate, not total amount that is important in terms of body weight.

Refined carbohydrates are often found in processed foods that contain a lot of sugar. This type of carbohydrate has what's called a high glycemic index, meaning it causes a rapid increase in blood sugar. The body stores that sugar in muscle, but if it is not used, it becomes fat.  In contrast, whole grains, fruits and vegetables have carbohydrates that don't have such high glycemic index.

In the report, researchers note that in the last 20 years, the obesity rate has increased, despite the fact that people are eating less fat. To help investigate the role carbohydrates play in obesity, the researchers measured the height and weight of 572 healthy people, and asked them to regularly report what carbohydrates they ate.

Researchers found that people with a higher body mass index -- a measure of weight that factors in height -- tended to eat carbohydrates with a higher glycemic index. The amount of carbohydrates people ate had no influence on body mass index.

Researchers noted that some countries now include a food's glycemic index on the labeling, which can be helpful for people trying to lose weight or deal with diabetes.

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.