Health & Wellness

A Low-Carb Diet May Help Keep Weight Off

A new study suggests that cutting down on bread and pasta can help you burn more calories


By Katrina Caruso


Keeping up to speed on the best diet to follow sometimes seems a never-ending project: every week, some new “superfood” comes out or health advocates call for cutting something out of our diets.

Lately, low-carb diets (such as Atkins, Paleo, and the Ketogenic diet) have been having a moment, with new ones popping up all over the place. Most of these diets rely on anecdotal evidence to get people to try them. However, a recent study, published in The BMJ, has shown some positive results for cutting down on carbohydrates such as pasta and bread.

A randomized trial involved 164 adult patients, aged 18 to 64, who were overweight (with a body mass index (BMI) over 25) at the start of the study. For 10 weeks, the participants were placed on a weight-loss regimen, and during this time, they lost an average of 10 to 12% of their body weight. After this, the participants were put on one of three diets: a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet (20% calories from carbs, 60% calories from fat), a moderate carbohydrate and fat diet (40% carbs and fat), or a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet (60% carbs, 20% fat).

Researchers found that lowering the levels of carbs allowed the participants to experience a boost in their metabolism, with signs pointing to an increase in energy expenditure (low-carb dieters burned an additional 200+ calories a day). The researchers estimated that a person following a low-carb diet would be able to continue to burn additional calories, and to lose body weight even while calorie intake remained constant.

Another randomized trial, published in 2014 in the Annals of Internal Medicine journal, found similar results, and a June 2018 study published in the journal Pediatrics showed positive benefits for children with Type 1 diabetes eating a diet very low in carbohydrates.

However, the debate goes on. Another study, published in Cell Metabolism in 2015, yielded opposite results—suggesting that lowering fat consumption, rather than carbohydrates, is better for weight loss. Meanwhile, a larger study of more than 600 participants, published in JAMA in February 2018, showed that there was no significant difference between the two diet plans.

As the results continue to be mixed, it’s probably best to discuss your plans for weight loss with your doctor, because he or she knows your history and specific health concerns the best. Realistically, it’s possible that there’s no such thing as the diet that is best for everyone.

Photo: iStock/GMVozd.