High Carbohydrate Diets Good for You

Despite all the hype about the benefits of a low carbohydrate and no carbohydrate diet, new research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture indicates diets high in carbohydrates are actually lower in calories and higher in nutrients. This type of diet, they say, may be used for weight loss or weight loss management.

Obesity prevalence has increased steadily during the past 20 years. In 1991, 12 percent of Americans were either overweight or obese. Today, that number has risen to 55 percent of American adults. In addition, obesity has been connected to more than a quarter million deaths.

The study evaluated low- and high-carbohydrate diets in relation to their energy content, nutritional quality, and relation to body mass index. Researchers with the USDA’s Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals (CSFII) 1994-1996 studied 10,014 adults over age 19, dividing them into four levels of carbohydrate intake. These include the very-low-carbohydrate group (less than 30 percent), low-carbohydrate group (30-45 percent), moderate-carbohydrate group (45-55 percent), and a high-carbohydrate group (greater than 50 percent).

Researchers conclude that grain-based diets including fruit, vegetables, and low-fat dairy, meat, poultry, and fish products were lower in calorie intake and more nutritious than low-carbohydrate diets. In fact, those in the high-carbohydrate group consumed up to 300 less calories per day, while eating the same amount of food. In addition, members of this group had the lowest average BMI.

Results show high-carbohydrate diets contain many more nutrients than low carbohydrate diets. Subjects in the high-carbohydrate group had increased levels of essential nutrients, including vitamin A, carotene, vitamin C, folate, calcium, magnesium and iron. In addition, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, zinc, and vitamin B12 consumption decreased. According to Bowman, people with low-carbohydrate diets risk deficiency in these antioxidant nutrients.

Bowman tells Ivanhoe Broadcast News, “High-carbohydrate diets can be successfully adopted for both weight loss and for the prevention of weight gain by the segment of population who is in the normal weight range.” Based on the study’s results, Dr. Bowman advises people looking to lose weight or maintain weight loss to eat foods low in caloric-density and to “go easy on sugary and alcoholic beverages.”

SOURCE: Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2002;21:268-274

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