Impact of Low-Carbohydrate Diets on Long-Term Weight: New Study Insights

by Ella

New research from Harvard T.H. Chan’s School of Public Health sheds light on the impact of low-carbohydrate diets on long-term weight management. The study, based on extensive U.S. research spanning from 1986 to 2018, involving 123,332 participants, suggests that the nature and quality of a low-carb diet significantly influence weight regain.

The research categorized low-carb diets into five types: general low-carb diet (TLCD), animal-based low-carb diet (ALCD), vegetable-based low-carb diet (VLCD), healthy low-carb diet (HLCD), and unhealthy low-carb diet (ULCD). Participants adhering to a healthy low-carb diet, emphasizing high-quality proteins, fats, and whole grains, experienced the least weight regain.


Dr. Qi Sun, senior author of the study, highlighted the challenge of maintaining weight after significant loss, attributing it to hormonal changes, reduced metabolic rate, increased appetite, and enhanced energy intake. Long-term weight loss trials typically show a steady regain after the initial six months.


Michelle Routhenstein, a preventive cardiology dietitian nutritionist not involved in the study, emphasized the difficulty of sustaining weight loss plans that involve deprivation. She also expressed reservations about prescribing low-carb diets due to potential heart-related risks and nutrient deficiencies.


The study found that diets emphasizing less-refined carbohydrates, such as the healthy low-carb diet (HLCD), outperformed those focusing on plant-sourced protein and fat (VLCD). Dr. Sun emphasized the importance of quality in low-carb diets, stating that emphasizing high-quality food sources leads to favorable outcomes in weight management.


Dr. Sun suggested that a successful weight maintenance strategy involves creating adaptable habits, staying reflective, leaning on support systems, and practicing resilience and self-kindness. He noted that low-carb diets should consider increasing macronutrients while keeping total energy constant.

In conclusion, the study recommends a focus on the quality of food sources in low-carb diets for effective weight management. Plant-based diets, rich in fiber and nutrients, are highlighted as beneficial for weight management, with the study encouraging individuals to work with qualified healthcare professionals for personalized dietary plans.



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