Good Carbs Mean Better Weight
Type of Carbohydrate Matters More Than How Much of It You Eat, Say Researchers
WebMD News Archive
Feb. 9, 2005 -- The latest weight loss news comes down on the side of
so-called "good" carbohydrates -- the kind offering more than sweet
tastes and flash-in-the-pan bursts of energy with few nutrients.
The type of carbohydrate you eat, rather than the total amount of
carbohydrates in your diet, may be related to body weight, say scientists in
the American Journal of Epidemiology's Feb. 15 edition.
Call it the victory of broccoli over white bread, or lentils over linguine.
Carbs with a lower glycemic index were kinder to weight than those with high
Glycemic index is an indicator of how quickly a food affects blood sugar
levels. Foods with a high glycemic index tend to be starchy, sugary, or refined
and stripped of some of their natural goodness; they're often "empty"
calories. In general, low-glycemic-index foods usually have more fiber and
For instance, french fries have a higher glycemic index than grapefruit.
Cakes and cookies are off the charts, compared with spinach.
You may have heard of the glycemic index before. It's often mentioned in
diets such as the Atkins and South Beach diets. Even if the phrase is new,
you're bound to be aware of the carbohydrate consciousness of recent years.
Some people lump all carbs together, branding them as suspects in America's
weight crisis. But all carbohydrates are not alike, and the new study clears
the name of "good" carbs.
The study was conducted by researchers including Yunsheng Ma, PhD, MPH, of
the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Participants were 572 healthy
adults in central Massachusetts.
For one year, subjects gave quarterly reports on their food consumption and
physical activity for seven-day periods. The data was collected between 1994
Is Glycemic Index the Key to Weight Loss?
The researchers looked at what the participants ate, how much they worked
out, and their body mass index (BMI), a measure of total body fat. BMI is used
to assess heart disease risk.
Higher BMIs were associated with diets that had higher glycemic index
Daily carbohydrate intake and percentage of calories from carbohydrates
didn't matter. The study indicates that the type of carbohydrate -- noted by
glycemic index -- was what counted, say the researchers. Short-term weight loss
studies have echoed that result, but "the long-term effect of glycemic
index and total carbohydrates on body weight is currently unknown," say Ma
The finding is consistent with the idea that foods with a higher glycemic
index trigger more insulin production and more fat storage, say the
researchers. However, they don't endorse cutting all carbohydrates or focusing
on glycemic load for weight loss. Instead, glycemic index was most important,
say the scientists, calling for more research.