Low-Carb Diets Effective At Maintaining Healthy Body Weight Says Study

Desiree Burns
November 17, 2018

They said in the paper: 'Consistent with the carbohydrate-insulin model, lowering dietary carbohydrate increased energy expenditure during weight loss maintenance.

The theory - and the value of low-carb diets - have been a subject of debate. Those on the low-carb diet burned 209-278 kilocalories a day more than those on the high-carb diet. Instead, the body stores these calories as fat.

The 164 participants who successfully lost at least 10 per cent of their body weight over the initial 10 weeks of the study were then placed on either a high, moderate or low-carbohydrate for an additional 20 weeks.

Although the researchers said the extra calories burned could translate into an extra 10kg weight loss over three years, the real significance is likely to be in keeping this fat off. Not everyone finds it a suitable approach for them, and we know that other approaches have also been very effective in controlling and even reversing type 2 diabetes. If a participant started to lose or gain weight, their calorie intake was increased or decreased. Then, they were randomly assigned to follow a low-, moderate- or high-carbohydrate diet - with 20, 40 or 60 percent of their calories coming from carbs, respectively - for 20 weeks.

The researchers brought down the participants' weights by 12 percent as a baseline. Low dietary carbohydrate intake is associated with increased energy expenditure during weight-loss maintenance, according to a study published online November 14 in The BMJ to coincide with the annual meeting of The Obesity Society (ObesityWeek), held from November 11 to 15 in Nashville, Tennessee.

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Experts also pointed out that all the participants had the same basic metabolic rate, so other unmeasured activities could explain differences, as well as high levels of saturated fat in the low-carbohydrate diet, which could lead to increased cholesterol and heart disease risk. "With more calories in the blood - not trapped in fat cells - the brain and muscle have better access to the fuels they need".

Those who had the highest insulin secretion at the beginning of the study burned up to 478 kilocalories per day more on a low-carb diet.

The authors point to some study limitations and can not rule out the possibility that some of the observed effects may be due to other unmeasured factors. So more research is needed to understand why participants in the low-carb group burned more calories. But in the real world "we're not adjusting our intake every week or days based on a scientific equation", Hunnes told, so it's unclear if the results would apply to people who were not following such a precise diet.

Kevin McConway, emeritus professor of applied statistics at the Open University, noted that "because the different diets had to be made up from foods that may have differed in other ways than just their carbohydrate and fat content, it remains possible that these other differences were responsible for some part of the observed differences in energy expenditures".

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