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Studies Link High-Fiber Carbs, Low Weight

March 5, 2004 -- The thinnest people eat the most carbs, a four-nation survey shows.

If you've been following the latest U.S. diet fads, that isn't what you'd expect. But the data come from an intensive, four-nation study of more than 4,000 men and women age 40 to 59. The study was based on food diaries kept by people in the U.S., U.K., Japan, and China.

Study leader Linda Van Horn, PhD, of Northwestern University, presented the findings at the 44th American Heart Association Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention, held this week in San Francisco.

"Without exception, a high-complex-carbohydrate, high-vegetable-protein diet is associated with low body mass," Van Horn said in a news conference. "High-protein diets were associated with higher body weight."

Don't be misled. The high-carb diet that's keeping the pounds off is full of high-fiber vegetables, not french fries.

"The point we are trying to make is that what we consider desirable carbohydrates are complex, or high-fiber-containing carbohydrates: whole grains, fruits, and vegetables -- not doughnuts or even polished rice," Van Horn said. "We are looking at legumes and vegetables that offer fiber as well as protein. We're not talking about refined carbohydrates, commonly known as sugar."

Not surprisingly, people who exercised more also tended to be less heavy. This was true even though they tended to consume more calories.

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