Low-carb diets may burn more calories


KEEPING weight off may be about more than just “calories in and calories out”: Some diets may be better calorie-burners than others, a new study suggests.
The study, which involved people trying to maintain weight loss, found that participants burned more calories on a low-carb diet than a high-carb diet. Specifically, among participants with the same average body weight, those who ate a low-carb diet burned about 250 more calories a day than those on the high-carb diet, while engaging in similar levels of physical activity. The findings, which are published today (Nov. 14) in the journal The BMJ, suggest that low-carb diets may help people keep weight off over the long term, a notoriously difficult feat.
The type of calories you consume affect the number of calories you burn,” David Ludwig, co-principal investigator of the study and co-director of the Boston Children’s Hospital’s New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center, told Live Science. “These novel effects of food, beyond calorie content, may help make long-term weight control easier and more effective.”
However, some experts say it’s too soon to recommend that the public switch to a low-carb diet like the one in the study for weight-loss maintenance, in part because the long-term health effects of such diets are unclear.
“It’s too early to really say whether or not this type of low-carb diet is healthy in the long run,” said Dana Hunnes, a senior dietitian at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, who was not involved in the study.
The study aimed to test a hypothesis known as the “carbohydrate-insulin model of obesity.” According to this idea, processed carbohydrates that have a high-glycemic index lead fat cells to store excess calories rather than burning them.
However, some short-term studies (typically less than two weeks) have found no difference between high-carb and low-carb diets regarding the number of calories people burn. But the new study aimed to look at this question over a longer period, around five months.
The study involved 164 overweight adults who first underwent a weight-loss regimen in order to lose around 10 percent of their body weight. 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 low-carb group also consumed a higher amount of fat, but all groups consumed about the same amount of protein, sodium and added sugar. All of the participants were provided with fully prepared meals to ensure they were consuming these precise levels of nutrients.

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