Watch Calories but Keep Nutrients to Stay Lean

Research finds low-carb diets aren’t associated with having a healthy weight 

A study by a University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center researcher finds the secret to staying lean hinges on eating foods not only lower in calories but also high in nutrients.

While high-protein and low-carbohydrate diets may promote short-term weight loss, the study indicates that lean people who are not dieting don’t tend to follow these types of eating plans.

“These population-based findings lend no support to the value of low-carbohydrate diets for maintaining normal body weight,” the study states.

High-nutrient foods tend to be higher in fiber so they keep you satisfied longer, said primary investigator Christina Shay, Ph.D., an assistant professor of biostatistics and epidemiology in the OU College of Public Health.


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Christina Shay, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of biostatistics and epidemiology
OU College of Public Health

“The trick to losing weight and keeping it off is to find foods you enjoy that punch the ticket for both lower calories and higher nutrients like vitamins, minerals and fiber,” she said.

The study looked at the dietary recall of 1,794 Americans taking part in the International Study of Macro-/Micronutrients and Blood Pressure (INTERMAP.)

Participants with a low body mass index enjoyed low-calorie, nutrient-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy. Lean study participants also had diets lower in sodium, fat and dietary cholesterol than their counterparts with higher body mass.

Those with higher body mass consumed more animal protein, processed meats, saturated fats and carbonated sugar-sweetened beverages.

“It is important to learn what those high-nutrient, low-calorie foods are,” Shay said. “That usually requires taking some time to learn about how to read nutrition labels and learn what foods actually have in them. Making it a priority to learn and make good decisions about the foods that you put into your body is one of the best ways to live a long, healthy life free of disease.”

An unfavorable diet is linked not only to obesity but to chronic health conditions such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, along with higher mortality.

Shay’s study is published in the American Journal for Clinical Nutrition, a publication of the American Society for Nutrition.

“Dietary intake is something that is very difficult to measure well,” Shay said. “This study is arguably the best study of dietary intake at one point in time.”

The INTERMAP study was funded in part by the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and Chicago Health Research Foundation.

 

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