High-carb diets can be good for you.
They may help you lose weight and maintain your weight, and they can lower your risk of chronic disease.
But what are high-carb foods?
And what are the best foods to eat for them?
The high-fat, low-carb, low calorie (HCLC) diet has become the go-to diet for people trying to lose weight, but it’s not a diet for everyone.
“If you want to lose a lot of weight, you need to lose that fat and then put on some muscle,” says Susan DeBoer, PhD, RD, an associate professor of nutrition at Tufts University School of Medicine.
“And if you don’t have that muscle, you’re not going to have a lot going on for your metabolism.”
So DeBoers team wanted to know how people fared on the HCLC diet compared to people who eat the conventional high-sugar, high-protein (HSPP) diet.
To get the answers, the researchers recruited 6,300 participants, who were all between 18 and 54 years old.
They were followed for four years and asked to report how many calories they ate per day.
For this, they used two of the most popular weight loss diets in the United States: the Atkins diet and the Ornish diet.
Both are high in carbohydrates, but the Atkins plan has a higher fat content and has less fat in the liver and kidney.
The researchers followed participants for four and five years, and their data was analyzed to determine their energy and macronutrient intakes.
“When we looked at the data, we were not surprised to find that participants on Atkins had a lower macronuts, protein and fiber intakes than those on Ornish,” says DeBoerr.
“However, we found that they were eating more carbohydrates than they were on the Ornishes.”
So, why did participants on the Atkins eat more?
DeBoernes team found that participants who ate the Atkins had higher body mass index (BMI) and higher waist circumference.
The other key takeaway: People who ate on the high-carbers diet had lower levels of HDL, a lipid that helps lower blood cholesterol.
The HDL-cholesterol levels of the high carb group were similar to those of those on the traditional high-SFA diet.
The Atkins diet was also associated with a higher risk of heart disease.
“The results showed that people on the diet had higher risk factors for heart disease than those who ate Ornish, and those who on the low-sFA diet had a slightly lower risk,” says Michael Krieger, PhD., an associate clinical professor of medicine at Tuft University School.
“High-carb dieters have a lower risk of developing heart disease, so that’s a good thing.”
In addition to weight loss, people on Atkins have been found to have higher blood pressure, diabetes, and higher risk for cancer.
“These are the people who are going to be the ones with the highest health risks,” says Krieer.
“They are the ones who are at increased risk for stroke, stroke-related deaths, cancers, and cardiovascular disease.”
DeBoers group hopes the results will help inform dieters.
“People who are trying to get their weight down are often trying to maintain it, but there are many other things that you can do to get leaner,” says deBoers.
“It may be that your diet is going to work for you, but we want to be able to help you understand how that works.”
For more on dieting, check out our articles:Low Carb vs. High-Sucrose vs. Low-Carb vs. Gluten-Free: Which Is Better?
and Why Do People Eat More Potatoes Than Sugar?