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Can a low-carbohydrate diet help keep weight off?

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Throughout your life, you have been inundated with information on which diet is the best for weight loss. You may have tried several diets before finding the one that worked for you. However, the real challenge begins when it comes to maintaining the weight loss. A recent study in The BMJ investigated whether a low-carbohydrate diet could help prevent weight regain, which often occurs after weight loss.

The study included 164 adults with overweight or obesity, classified as having a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or greater, between August 2014 and May 2017. Participants were assigned to one of three test diets:

  • High-carbohydrate (60% carbohydrate).
  • Medium-carbohydrate (40% carbohydrate).
  • Low-carbohydrate (20% carbohydrate).

During the weight loss maintenance phase, several factors were measured. The results were intriguing:

Total energy expenditure (TEE) was higher for those on a low-carbohydrate diet compared to those on medium or high-carbohydrate diets.

Ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates hunger and delays satiety, was lower in the low-carbohydrate group.

Leptin, a hormone that suppresses appetite, was lowest in the low-carbohydrate group.

In the short term, the study suggests that a low-carbohydrate diet may help maintain weight loss compared to moderate- and high-carbohydrate diets. However, the study only lasted for 20 weeks, and longer-term studies are needed to see if the benefits persist. It may be useful to evaluate the carbohydrate content of your diet if you are having trouble maintaining weight loss.

 If your carbohydrate intake is moderate or high, reducing it may be worth considering. However, there is no "one size fits all" solution, and it is crucial to pay attention to your body's signals. Ultimately, your body cues are the most critical aspect of the equation.

Caroline Buckee

Caroline Flannigan is an epidemiologist. She is an Associate Professor of Epidemiology and is the Associate Director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics.

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