Stories about: low-fat diets

Are all calories created equal?

David Ludwig, MD, PhD Boston Children's Hospital

Historically, people who lose weight have a hard time keeping it off long-term. Most people believe it’s due to lack of adherence to diets or lost motivation, but recent research finds that not all calories are the same—and that following a low-glycemic diet that works with a person’s changing metabolism could help maintain weight loss.

Researchers Cara Ebbeling, PhD, and David Ludwig, MD, PhD, of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center Boston Children’s Hospital considered that after people lost weight, the rate at which they burned calories slowed down, making it harder to maintain weight loss. The challenge was to find a diet that would work with the body’s changing metabolism and help people continue to burn calories at a rate that would help them maintain their weight loss.

“Keeping weight off—even under the best circumstances—is difficult,” says Ludwig. “But lining up biology and behavior can help.” Ludwig and Ebbeling studied the affects of three diets with the same amount of calories in each:

  • Low-fat, which is typically recommended by the U.S. government and American Heart Association, aims to reduce overall fat intake.
  • Low-carbohydrate, modeled after the Atkins diet, reduces almost all carbohydrate intake.
  • Low-glycemic, which aims to keep blood sugar levels steady by choosing natural foods and high-quality protein, carbohydrates and fats.

Even though all three diets consisted of the same amount of calories, the low-glycemic diet came out on top: Aside from helping to stabilize metabolism even after weight loss, existing research suggests that low-glycemic diets help people feel fuller longer and experience improved sense of well-being, as well as improved mental and physical performance.

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