Diets in Review - Find the Right Diet for You

People Who Maintain Healthy Weights Don’t Eat Low Carbs

A new study from the University of South Carolina suggests that most people who maintain optimum body weight do not consume a diet low in carbohydrates.sliced bread

A research team led by Dr. A. T. Merchant, an associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of South Carolina, used a 2004-2005 cross-sectional survey of 4,451 Canadians aged 18 years and older. The results indicate higher carbs are associated with normal weights.

People consuming 290 to 310 g/day carbohydrates (47% to 64% of calories from carbs) were least likely to be overweight or obese compared to those in the lowest intake category.

Those that consumed the highest level of carbohydrates tended to be younger and female, with lower intakes of calories and fats and higher intakes of fiber. Compared to the lowest carb intake category (179 g/day), weight and obesity risk was lower by 37% for those consuming 234 g/day and by 42% for those consuming 269/day.

Lead scientist Dr. A. T. Merchant says that the main drawback of any extreme diet, be it one based on high or low carbohydrate intake, is that is it difficult to adhere to over the long term.

As a nutrition expert, I’d have to agree with that sentiment — and I know I’m not alone. Just this week Biggest Loser star and blogger at this very website, Mike Morelli, gave his thoughts on extreme dieting where calories are slashed to next to nothing.

I have supervised overweight clients on following modified low-carb eating plans to initiate weight loss (about 45% of calories), but rarely do I cut carbs lower than that. Usually there is a more serious medical nutrition therapy reason like a Ketogenic diet for seizures.fruits

Low-carb diets are seriously lacking in complex carbohydrates that are rich in soluble and insoluble fiber, which aid in digestion and help people get and stay full. It has been well documented that diets low in whole grain, fiber, fruit and vegetables, and high in calories, are associated with an increased risk of overweight or obesity and poor overall health, and these findings point out some of the limitations to eliminating carbs, especially those with potential health benefits.

There’s also an increased risk for developing gout, a painful joint condition that results from a buildup of uric acid in the blood. The nutrition treatment is limiting protein to 2-3 ounces once or twice a day and taking in vegetables and fruits, various complex carbs, and things like cherry juice that help remove the uric acid.

Going back to the study, it is not surprising that the researchers found those who had the lowest overweight and obesity risk were more physically active than those in both the lowest and highest carbohydrate intake categories. And retailers have a role to play, too.

Bottom line: modified low carb is OK in my book (45-50% of calories) if you are still restricting calories, meeting fiber needs and not eliminating whole fruits (but should limit to 2-3 fruits a day for all healthy people). Get out there and move! Check out the articles covering exercise here at DietsInReview.com.

August 7th, 2009

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