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No Bad Food Groups continued...

A typical breakfast for the low-fat dieters might include instant oatmeal with skim milk and raisins. Steel-cut oats with blueberries and 2% milk would be substituted for the low-glycemic-load dieters.

Thirty-nine of the dieters lost 10% of their body weight during the study. Resting metabolism of low-glycemic load dieters slowed at about half the rate of low-fat dieters. The low-glycemic group burned about 80 calories more per day than their low-fat counterparts.

The low-glycemic dieters also reported having less hunger. They also had greater improvements in risk factors associated with diabetes and heart disease, including blood pressure, triglyceride levels, and chronic inflammation.

'The Perfect Compromise'

Ludwig tells WebMD that the findings show that a healthy, balanced eating plan offers advantages over fad diets for weight loss.

"For many years we had the low-fat paradigm. It made sense that if you didn't want fat on your body you shouldn't put fat in your body. But the problem was that it didn't seem to work very well and even had some adverse side effects," he says. "In the past few years the pendulum has swung very far in the other direction with the assumption that all carbohydrates are bad."

Ludwig says that while carbohydrate-limiting diets have been proven to promote short-term weight loss, two recent studies show that these dieters tend to regain the weight they lose.

"Both the low-fat and low-carbohydrate approaches are probably too restrictive," he says. "The low-glycemic load approach is the perfect compromise. A diet based on glycemic load may work with the body's own mechanism to allow people to eat a wider range of foods and fill up sooner."

Nutritionist Karmeen Kulkarni, RD, MS, says the low-glycemic-load diet represents a healthy approach to eating. But she adds that Ludwig's study was too small and too short to confirm that it is better than other weight loss approaches. Kulkarni is president-elect of health care and education for the American Diabetes Association.

"These participants were followed very closely and all of their food was weighed and measured, so it is not surprising that they lost weight," she says. "Certainly these findings need to be confirmed in larger, longer studies that do not so closely control food intake."

Ludwig's research team is currently recruiting patients for just such a study, and he hopes to follow participants for a year and a half. Boston residents between the ages of 18 and 35 can learn more about participating in the study by calling (617) 355-2500.

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