Get this, you can eat your beloved carbs and lose weight! Did you know that a higher carbohydrate consumption was associated with a decreased risk of obesity according to a recently pubished study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association? The media picked up on this study and rapidly concluded that heck, carbs really aren’t so bad afterall. Sure, our fab bod role models who dawn the covers of magazines and books, people like Jamie Easton and James Villepigue, eschew crackers, baked chips and bread. But, now the media is telling us to swing back down that same nutrition roadpath we headed down in the early 1990s? Who’s right? Who’s wrong? And what if we just want to fit in an airplane seat comfortably (as if!) and could care less about ripped abs?
The truth is that this particular study showed an association, not a cause and effect, among 4 groups of people (based on carb intake) who ate approximately the same total calories everyday. They didn’t put people through a clinical trial and monitor their food intake, physical activity and weight over time. Instead, they took diet records from thousands of Canadians and associated this to their weight. Likelihood of obesity and overweight declined steadily with increasing carbohydrate intake, up to 290 -310 grams per day. After that, obesity rates rose with increasing carbohydrate intake. Fiber, total fat and protein were not associated with obesity (though total fat intake declined with increased intake of carbs). The lowest risk of obesity was in those who consumed 47 – 64% of their energy from carbohydrates.
Here’s the thing, fruit, vegetable and fiber intake were higher in those who consumed more carbohydrate. And like I said, there are different types of fat, protein and carbs – dramatically different. And, this study certainly didn’t provide a full picture of the intake of any of these . What type of carbs? Are we talking about processed white bread or whole grain pasta? Who knows, this data wasn’t collected. And, they only measured leisure physical activity. Now, I’m a believer in activities of daily living (gardening, washing your car, actually playing with your children) but you need actual exercise to make a difference. Especially as you age and lose muscle mass (sorry, it’s inevitable though you can put the brakes on sarcopenia).
The authors conclusions are way different than the recent media blitz. They indicated that “there is no consensus on the best dietary pattern to maintain optimal body weight.” So, if this study leaves you more perplexed than anything, remember that each person has different individual needs and therefore what you need to eat for optimal health and a great figure will vary from what your friend needs to consume. But, keep in mind the answer isn’t “a high carb diet = weight loss.” Instead, how much you eat, when you eat and the types of fat, protein and carbs you choose will make an enormous difference when it comes to achieving lasting weight loss success.