Health

For Low-Carb Diets, Quality of Food, Not Just Quantity, Is Key to Long-Term Weight Loss

Variations on the low-carb diet have been popular ways to drop pounds, but a new study shows that the quality of foods, and not just the quantity of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, makes a difference in keeping weight off.

The research, published December 27, 2023, in JAMA Network Open, followed participants for decades to find out how five different types of low-carb diets impacted weight.

“The key takeaway from our study is that not all low-carbohydrate diets are created equal when it comes to managing weight in the long-term — the quality of the food is crucial,” says the study’s lead author, Binkai Liu, PhD, a research assistant in the nutrition department at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.

Researchers found that diets low in carbs but high in good-quality proteins, fats, and a small portion of carbs from healthful plant-based sources like whole grains and beans, were linked with slower weight gain. “On the other side, low-carb diets high in animal proteins and fats or refined carbs, such as those from red and processed meat, dairy products, and sugar-sweetened beverages, may lead to faster weight gain,” says Dr. Liu.

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