The controversial low-carbohydrate diet pioneered by US cardiologist Robert Atkins has been scientifically proven to work long-term, according to a new study.
A report on research carried out in the US and published in the British Medical Journal reveals that eating food with low carbohydrate content promotes the burning of more calories and helps to keep weight off.
The conventional treatment for obesity treats all calories alike, advising that simply eating less will promote weight loss.
However, studies have shown that the effect of doing so diminishes in time as the body adapts by burning fewer calories and slowing metabolism to conserve energy. The result is that most dieters who eat less of both carbs and fats quickly regain weight.
Researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital, in conjunction with Framingham State University in Massachusetts, took a different approach, comparing the effects of diets varying in carbohydrate to fat ratio.
During the Framingham State Food Study, the diet of the participants was strictly controlled by providing them with fully prepared meals for 20 weeks.
In addition, they monitored the participants’ weight and measured metabolic hormones, insulin secretion, and total energy expenditure (number of calories burned).
They trialled 234 overweight adults who had a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or higher and put them on an initial weight loss diet for 10 weeks.
Those who achieved the target weight loss were then randomly assigned diets varying from 60% (high) to 20% (low) carbohydrate.
Participants on the low-carb diet burned as many as 278 calories a day more than those on the high-carb regimen.
“These findings show that all calories are not alike to the body and that restricting carbohydrates may be a better strategy than restricting calories over the long term,” said David Ludwig, an endocrinologist at Boston Children’s Hospital and a co-author of the study.