Can plant-based high-carbohydrate, low-fat diets help overweight individuals with general health? A recent study jointly conducted by researchers at GWU School of Medicine and the University of Utah, Salt Lake City School of Medicine tried to answer that question.
The effects of high carbohydrate diets on increased body weight and insulin sensitivity are controversial, in part due to some carbohydrates like fiber having positive effects and low-carbohydrate diets can allow men to decrease fiber intake. A study specifically investigated the role of changes in carbohydrate intake on body composition and insulin resistance to help address this controversy.
Participants were randomized to either follow a plant-based high-carbohydrate, low-fat (vegan) diet or to maintain their current diet. Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry was used to measure body composition.
Diets & Obesity
The prevalence of obesity has surpassed epidemic proportions. The WHO estimates that over 1.9 billion adults worldwide have excess body weight. As a result, the prevalence of obesity-related diseases has rapidly increased. Practical and sustainable weight loss strategies are needed.
Poor nutrition habits and diets are leading contributors to obesity, chronic diseases, and premature death, both in the United States and worldwide. It has been estimated that dietary factors including high intakes of processed meat products & sodium along with low intakes of fruits and vegetables are associated with roughly half of cardio-metabolic deaths in the United States.
Diets & Exercise
The study on carbohydrates also assessed a small group of participants who were chosen for a healthier diet and an exercise regimen. These participants were put on the same plant-based, high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet as other study participants, but also had a regular workout routine added to their daily activities.
Research from this study noted that while exercise did help body weight-related issues, it did not have the same level of impact as seen with dietary changes.
The joint study noted that increased consumption of carbohydrates and dietary fiber, as part of a plant-based high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet, was associated with reduced body weight and fat mass, and lower prevalence of insulin resistance in overweight individuals. Changes in consumption of total carbohydrates correlated negatively with changes in BMI and volume of visceral fat, even after adjustment for energy intake.
The results of this study continue to validate the results of many earlier studies noting the positive effects a plant-based diet can have on weight, even if it is considered higher in carbohydrates. It is important in assessing studies on carbohydrates to understand the amount of fiber, which is a carbohydrate, compared to simple carbs like sugars.
Research at Biofortis
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