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Meat-based, low-carb diets may increase weight gain over time, study finds


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If you want your low-carb diet to help you lose weight and keep it off, consider the quality of the foods you eat, according to a new study comparing five types of low-carb diets.

According to the study, people who followed an unhealthy meat-based, low-carb diet gained weight over time compared to those who followed a healthier, plant-based version.

“When people follow a diet that emphasizes carbohydrates from whole grains, healthy non-tropical vegetable oils and plant-based proteins, they are more likely to limit excess weight gain,” said l The study’s lead author, Dr. Qi Sun, associate professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in Boston.

The study compared an overall low-carbohydrate diet to one using primarily animal proteins and fats; a second diet focused on plant-based proteins and fats; a healthy, low-carb diet focused on eating less refined carbohydrates, more plant-based proteins, and healthy fats like olive oil; and finally, an unhealthy eating plan defined as including unhealthy fats, more animal proteins, and refined grains.

“To my knowledge, examining the effects on sustainable weight loss of different low-carb variants is new,” said Dr. David Katz, a preventive medicine and lifestyle specialist who founded True Health Initiative, a global nonprofit coalition of experts. evidence-based lifestyle medicine. He was not involved in the research.

All diets reduced carbohydrates to approximately 38 to 40 percent of daily calorie intake. However, people who followed an unhealthy low-carb diet high in protein and animal fats gained weight in the long term compared to people who focused on higher consumption of fruits, whole grains, and non-starchy vegetables and on a lower consumption of dairy products, red and processed meat, and sugar. -sweet drinks, sweets and desserts.

Those who adopted unhealthy Low-carb diets as a primary strategy resulted in an average gain of about 2.3 kg or 5.1 pounds over 4 years,” said first author Binkai Liu, a research assistant in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan. School of Public Health.

“Those who adopted in good health Low-carb diets as a primary strategy lost an average of about 2.2 kg, or 4.9 pounds, for an average net difference between the two of 10 pounds,” she said via email.

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Red and processed meat has been linked to cancer, heart disease, diabetes and more, putting any diet based on this meat in the “unhealthy” category, experts say.

The study, published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Network Open, examined data from more than 67,000 people who participated in three well-established longitudinal studies: the Nurses’ Health Study conducted between 1986 and 2010, the Nurses’ Health Study II, conducted between 1991 and 2015, and the health professional follow-up study, conducted between 1986 and 2018.

“These are of course observational studies and not designed to establish a cause and effect relationship; rather, they reveal associations,” Katz said. “However, when observed associations are strong, dose-sensitive, difficult to explain, and linked to plausible mechanisms, a cause-and-effect relationship can sometimes be inferred.”

All participants in the three studies were healthy, younger than 65 years old, and had no pre-existing chronic illnesses. Weight loss or gain was self-reported at four-year intervals.

Low-carb diets that emphasized “high-quality macronutrients from healthy plant-based foods” were associated with less weight gain, the study notes, while low-carb diets that ” emphasized animal-based proteins and fats or refined carbohydrates were combined with more carbohydrates. weight gain.” The associations were more evident in younger, heavier and less active people, the study found.

“Ultimately, over a 4-year period, simply adopting a “low-carb” diet in general was NOT associated with sustained weight loss among those attempting to lose weight, WHEREAS adopting a low-carbohydrate and/or high-quality diet was associated with sustained weight loss,” Katz said in an email.

Although the study focused on a low-carb diet, the importance of food quality is key in any diet, said Sun, who is also director of the Nutritional Biomarkers Laboratory at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.

“It is always wise to choose a diet that emphasizes fresh fruits and non-starchy vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, olive and other vegetable oils, coffee, tea or just water, a little red wine if you drink it, low sodium, and other healthy ingredients,” Sun said.

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