According to certain research, reducing your intake of carbohydrates will help you reach your weight loss objectives. However, recent studies suggest that weight loss may not be achieved with some low-carb diets.
A study that was published in JAMA Network Open looked at information from more than 67,000 participants in three different trials. Every participant in the three trials was deemed healthy, under 65, and free of chronic illnesses prior to enrollment. Participants’ self-reports of their diets and any weight increase or loss at four-year intervals were used to gather data.
The results of five distinct low-carb diets, each of which reduced daily carbohydrate intake to between 38% and 40%, were compared by the researchers. A general low-carbohydrate diet, one that prioritised animal protein and fat, another diet that concentrated on protein and fat from vegetables, a low-carb diet that emphasised eating less refined carbohydrates, more plant protein, and healthy fats like olive oil, and lastly, a “unhealthy” meal plan that included more animal protein, refined grains, and “unhealthy” fats were all contrasted in the study.
Researchers discovered that low-carb diets emphasising the consumption of high-quality macronutrients from wholesome plant-based foods were linked to lower rates of weight gain, while low-carb diets emphasising refined carbohydrates or proteins and fats sourced from animals were linked to higher rates of weight gain. Those who were younger, heavier, and less active showed stronger correlations with these variables.
In other words, individuals who consumed a low-carb diet high in meat gained more weight over time than those who consumed a diet high in plants.
Though there isn’t a single, accepted definition of “low carb,” Melissa Prest, D.C.N., R.D.N., national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and member of the Prevention Medical Review Board, says it’s generally understood to refer to a diet that limits starchy vegetables like potatoes, grains, and fruits that are high in carbohydrates. “Most individuals adhering to a low-carb diet will prioritise selecting foods that are higher in fats, protein, and non-starchy vegetables, such as leafy greens,” she continues.
According to award-winning nutritionist and Sunsweet partner Toby Amidor, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., “A healthier low-carb diet can consist of 45% of total calories from carbs which is between 900-1300 calories or 225-325 grammes of carbs based on a 2,000 calorie diet.” This is what a low-carb diet looks like. According to Amidor, this lower-carb diet permits the consumption of a range of entire foods high in carbohydrates, such as fruit, whole grains, legumes, and dairy products, ensuring that the body gets the nutrients it requires to maintain health.
Some low-carb diets—like the keto diet—significantly reduce the amount of carbohydrates consumed. According to Amidor, “these low-carb diets are unhealthy because not enough nutrients are consumed to keep the body in optimal health.”
Prest notes that although ultra-processed meats like bacon, saturated fat, and salt are categorised as low-carb foods, they have been connected to heart disease, cancer risk, and inflammation. “Choosing lower-carb veggies like cauliflower, cabbage, leafy greens, and broccoli, along with lean meats and unsaturated and monounsaturated fats like nuts or seeds, is a better way to make a low-carb plate.”
A low-carb diet is not the same as a no-carb diet, according to registered dietitian Keri Gans, M.S., R.D., author of The Small Change Diet. She says, “Remember that low-carb diets can, and should, still contain carbohydrates, especially those with health benefits.”
Gans advises speaking with a qualified dietitian or your primary care physician if you’re thinking about going low-carb to make sure you’re still getting the nutrition your body needs. Amidor adds that people who have problems with their kidneys, liver, gallbladder, or pancreas—particularly those who have certain forms of diabetes—should speak with a doctor before beginning a carbohydrate restriction.