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Last updated on April 17, 2014 at 17:30 EDT

High-Protein, Low-Carb Diet Best For Keeping Weight Off

November 25, 2010

Hoping to keep from packing on the pounds or regaining previously lost weight during this holiday season? Experts from the University of Copenhagen say they have found the solution–eat the turkey, but pass on the potatoes and stuffing.

In a study published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), the Danish researchers studied 773 overweight and obese adults from eight different European nations, focusing primarily on ways to keep weight off after it had already been lost.

Each of the study subjects had lost an average of 24 pounds after a low-fat diet, and as part of the research, they were placed on one of five different eating plans. Four of the plans involved different combinations of protein and carbohydrate intake, while the fifth required moderate protein consumption but placed no limit on the amount of carbs that could be eaten.

According to AP Science Writer Alicia Chang, “Dieters in each group ate as much as they wanted and whenever they wanted. They received counseling and were given recipes and cooking advice. They also kept food diaries and provided blood and urine samples”¦ After six months, only the low-protein, high-carb group regained significant weight–nearly 4 pounds. By contrast, there was a trend toward a little more weight loss for those in the high-protein, low-carb group.”

As a result, lead author Dr. Thomas Meinert Larsen and his colleagues conclude that diets that limit the amount of starch and other carbohydrates while emphasizing consumption of lean meats, poultry, and beans are “ideal for the prevention of weight regain.”

One of the advantages of high protein diets, study co-author and Copenhagen nutritionist Dr. Arne Astrup told Chang, is that people “don’t need to concentrate on calories or how much they eat. It’s a much more attractive way to try to control people’s body weight.”

The study also challenges existing dietary recommendations that focus on eating fruits and vegetables, claiming that they are “they are not sufficient for preventing obesity,” the University of Copenhagen said in a statement posted to their official website.

“Our diet study shows that, for instance, the dietary recommendation to eat six servings of fruits or vegetables a day is too undifferentiated,” the university added, citing Larsen as the source. “Because according to our study, some fruits can be eaten freely whereas the intake of others should be limited. And vegetables such as carrots, beets and parsnip should preferably be eaten raw.”

Likewise, the researchers note that pasta should be prepared ‘al dente’ and that both it and potatoes should be eaten cold. The reason, according to the press release, is that the chemical structure of these foods changes when they are cooled, and as a result, “they are broken down more slowly in the intestines which ensures more stable blood glucose levels.”

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