New Study Identifies Low-Carb Foods That Slow Weight Gain

by Ella

A recent study highlights the impact of specific low-carb food choices on slowing down weight gain over time. Published in JAMA Network Open, the analysis of data from nearly 125,000 healthy adults indicates that merely reducing carb intake is not sufficient; the focus should be on the quality of carbohydrates consumed.

According to Dr. Qi Sun, the senior author of the study and an associate professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, “When it comes to a low-carbohydrate diet, quality is paramount.” The study suggests that replacing refined carbs, such as white bread, white rice, or sugary cereals, with whole grain foods and reducing animal-based fats and proteins could lead to less weight gain over a four-year period.


The study emphasizes the importance of high-quality carbohydrates, including whole grains like oatmeal and whole grain pasta, fats from vegetable oils (excluding tropical ones high in saturated fat), plant proteins from beans, nuts, and soy, as well as fruits and vegetables. Conversely, it advises against refined grains, red and processed meats, and saturated fats.


The research, conducted using data from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, focuses on 123,332 participants without chronic health conditions. It differentiates between various low-carb diets based on the quality of food choices:


Animal-based low-carbohydrate diet (ALCD).


Vegetable-based low-carbohydrate diet (VLCD).

Healthy low-carbohydrate diet (HLCD), emphasizing plant-based proteins and healthy fats.

Unhealthy low-carbohydrate diet (ULCD), emphasizing animal proteins and unhealthy fats.

Improved diet quality correlated with reduced weight gain over the study’s four years. Participants in the healthy low-carb group, whose diet scores improved the most, gained an average of 2.1 pounds less compared to those who showed the least improvement. Conversely, the two categories emphasizing animal proteins were associated with faster weight gain.

Dr. Sahar Takkouche, an obesity expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, emphasizes that “quality matters in a low-carb diet,” and healthier choices are integral to better weight management. The study acknowledges some limitations, such as a predominantly white female participant pool, and cautions about potential flaws in self-reported dietary information and weight records.

Despite these limitations, the research provides valuable insights into the specific foods within a low-carb diet that contribute to mitigating long-term weight gain, emphasizing the importance of making healthy food choices within the low-carb framework.



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