It’s difficult enough for those who struggle with weight issues to shed unwanted pounds, but it’s often even harder for them to keep those pounds off.
Now, a recent study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association indicates that the type of diet you choose could dictate how long the weight stays off and you maintain a slimmer, healthier look.
The study, published in June, suggests that a low-glycemic-index diet, often called a Mediterranean diet, offers a better chance of keeping weight off in the long term – and with less negative side effects – than low-fat and low-carb diets.
Forget about counting carbs and calories. Rather than prohibiting you from eating certain things, a low-glycemic diet instead steers you toward healthier foods, including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, low-fat dairy and healthy fats, like olive oil and avocados, said Nadine Pazder, an outpatient dietitian at Morton Plant Hospital.
“This is the type of balanced approach that I and many registered dietitians recommend,” she explained.
Focusing on energy expenditure, as well as hormone and fat levels in the blood, the study, led by researchers from the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital, assessed the effect of these three common diets on 21 participants. Initially, the participants, aged 18 to 40, were placed on a three-month long diet where 45 percent of their total calories came from carbs, 30 percent from fats, and 25 percent from proteins. During this time period, they lost between 10 percent and 15 percent of their body weight.
Following this, they were placed on three diets – low-glycemic, low-carb and low-fat – for a month each. Modeled after the Atkins diet, the low-carb diet limited carbohydrate intake to just 10 percent of total calories. The low-fat diet limited fats to 20 percent of total calories. On the low-glycemic diet, the participants received 40 percent of total calories from carbs, 40 percent from fats and 20 percent from protein.
When on the low-carb diet, participants burned the most calories per day, about 300 more than the low-fat diet. However, it also was found that this low-carb diet increased levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, and raised the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes. Also, a low-carb diet can promote bone thinning and kidney stones, aggravate gout, and is deficient in many micronutrients, Pazder said.
And while one might assume a fat-free diet will yield positive weight-loss results, Pazder said a lot of fat-free foods are actually higher in sugar or sodium, which can cause an elevation in serum triglycerides. Also, she said it’s important to note that both low-fat and low-carb diets resulted in higher levels of inflammation.
“We are starting to realize the role that inflammation has in chronic disease,” Pazder said.
Those on the low-glycemic diet burned about 150 calories a day more than when on the low-fat diet, and without negative impact on cholesterol levels and certain hormones.
“Calories are controlled [on this diet], and it does not appear to promote inflammation in the body,” Pazder said. “Many chronic diseases can be managed with this type of meal plan.”
It’s often adopted by those with diabetes and heart disease, she said.
Pazder also was quick to point out that this is just one study and the results are not definitive.
“Approaches to weight loss are not one-size-fits all,” she said. “And there will be folks who do better on one versus another, despite what a study says.”
She also stressed that diets are short-term solutions that need to be coupled with lifestyle changes in order to effectively manage weight. Healthy food choices, portion control, regular physical activity and adequate rest “are all key to a healthy lifestyle,” she explained.