Low-carbohydrate diets and long-term weight gain | News

For fast release: December 27, 2023

Boston, MA—Low-carbohydrate diets comprised primarily of plant-primarily based proteins and fat with wholesome carbohydrates such as total grains have been linked with slower extensive-time period fat get than low-carbohydrate diet programs comprised mainly of animal proteins and fat with unhealthy carbs like refined starches, according to a new review led by Harvard T.H. Chan College of Community Health and fitness.

The research was posted on December 27, 2023, in JAMA Network Open.

“Our analyze goes further than the simple concern of, ‘To carb or not to carb?’” stated guide creator Binkai Liu, investigation assistant in the Division of Diet. “It dissects the lower-carbohydrate food plan and delivers a nuanced glance at how the composition of these diet plans can have an impact on well being above several years, not just weeks or months.”

Though many research have demonstrated the advantages of slicing carbohydrates for shorter-expression weight reduction, little investigate has been executed on minimal-carbohydrate diets’ influence on extended-expression excess weight maintenance and the function of food stuff group excellent.

Applying info from the Nurses’ Wellness Examine, Nurses’ Health and fitness Study II, and Overall health Pros Adhere to-up Analyze, the scientists analyzed the diet plans and weights of 123,332 healthy grownups from as early as 1986 to as recently as 2018. Just about every participant presented self-experiences of their diets and weights just about every four a long time. The researchers scored participants’ meal plans based on how effectively they adhered to five categories of lower-carbohydrate diet program: overall minimal-carbohydrate diet regime (TLCD), emphasizing general decreased carbohydrate consumption animal-based mostly reduced-carbohydrate diet plan (ALCD), emphasizing animal-based mostly proteins and fats vegetable-centered low-carbohydrate diet (VLCD), emphasizing plant-based mostly proteins and fat healthy low-carbohydrate diet (HLCD), emphasizing plant-centered proteins, nutritious fats, and fewer refined carbohydrates and unhealthy low-carbohydrate diet (ULCD), emphasizing animal-based mostly proteins, harmful fats, and carbohydrates coming from unhealthy sources these kinds of as processed breads and cereals.

The study identified that diets comprised of plant-centered proteins and fats and healthier carbs had been substantially connected with slower very long-term bodyweight achieve. Individuals who improved their adherence to TLCD, ALCD, and ULCD on normal acquired much more weight as opposed to individuals who greater their adherence to HLCD over time. These associations have been most pronounced among individuals who had been more youthful (<55 years old), overweight or obese, and/or less physically active. The results for the vegetable-based low carbohydrate diet were more ambiguous: Data from the Nurses’ Health Study II showed an association between higher VLCD scores and less weight gain over time, while data around VLCD scores from the Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study were more mixed.

“The key takeaway here is that not all low-carbohydrate diets are created equal when it comes to managing weight in the long-term,” said senior author Qi Sun, associate professor in the Department of Nutrition. “Our findings could shake up the way we think about popular low-carbohydrate diets and suggest that public health initiatives should continue to promote dietary patterns that emphasize healthful foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products.”

Other Harvard Chan authors included Molin Wang, associate professor in the Departments of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and Yang Hu, research scientist Sharan Rai, postdoctoral research fellow and Frank Hu, professor, in the Department of Nutrition.

The study was funded by research grants from the National Institutes of Health: UM1 CA186107, U01 CA176726, U01 CA167552, P01 CA87969, R01 HL034594, R01 HL035464, R01 HL60712, R01 DK120870, R01 DK126698, R01 DK119268, U2C DK129670, DK119268, R01 ES022981, and R21 AG070375.

“Low-Carbohydrate Diet Macronutrient Quality and Weight Change,” Binkai Liu, Yang Hu, Sharan K. Rai, Molin Wang, Frank B. Hu, Qi Sun, JAMA Network Open, December 27, 2023, doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.49552

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For more information:

Maya Brownstein
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Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health brings together dedicated experts from many disciplines to educate new generations of global health leaders and produce powerful ideas that improve the lives and health of people everywhere. As a community of leading scientists, educators, and students, we work together to take innovative ideas from the laboratory to people’s lives—not only making scientific breakthroughs, but also working to change individual behaviors, public policies, and health care practices. Each year, more than 400 faculty members at Harvard Chan School teach 1,000-plus full-time students from around the world and train thousands more through online and executive education courses. Founded in 1913 as the Harvard-MIT School of Health Officers, the School is recognized as America’s oldest professional training program in public health.