Low-carb diets may burn more calories

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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. (High-glycemic foods release sugar quickly into the bloodstream.)
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.

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