“A calorie is a calorie” – has been the rule of thumb for a long time. Controlling the number of calories was the mission.
Another rule of thumb was “avoid fats” to lose or maintain weight. Choosing low fat, processed foods plus avoiding meat, cheese and higher fat foods became the mission.
Now an important new study shows that calories made with highly processed carbohydrates like white flour (and of course sugar) provide calories that the body treats differently. These calories quickly elevate both blood sugar and insulin, causing us to retain fat instead of burning it off.
The study results published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows the effectiveness of what is called low-glycemic diets. Dr. David Ludwig, Director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center, of Boston Children’s Hospital studied the great difficulty people have maintaining a weight loss after they’ve achieved it. (It’s actually far more difficult to keep off the pounds than it was to loose them in the first place)
He found that after people lost weight, the rate at which they burn calories actually slowed down, making it harder to maintain the weight loss. The body tries to keep a stable weight by reducing energy expenditure. For the study he put people who had achieved substantial weight loss on three different diets to see their effects.
The low-glycemic diet was the winner. It’s all about how the body uses calories. The calories on this menu of foods are slowly digested so that one feels full longer. Blood sugar and hormones stay at a steady level for many hours. It’s easier to control hunger and, therefore, body weight, when blood sugar levels are steady, not gyrating quickly from high to low and back again.
Here’s What to Eat
Most fruits and vegetables
Minimally processed grains like brown rice, bulgur
Stone Ground Whole grain Bread
Oatmeal (cook yourself)
Yogurt – (doesn’t need to be low fat), Milk
Eggs – (in moderation)
Lean Meat and Poultry
Nuts, Beans, Lentils
What Not to Eat
White bread, Bagels, Muffins, Fluffy, Soft Whole Wheat Bread (overly processed)
Carbonated Drinks, Most Bottled Fruit Juice
A low-glycemic diet can also help lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels in people with diabetes, both type 1 and type 2.
The Two Other Diet Types Studied
While low-fat diets have been followed for years, Dr. Ludwig says there is actually little evidence they are affective. On those diets the study participants burned calories more slowly than the people on diets with the less refined carbohydrates in the low-glycemic diet. Low-fat diets had the worst effects on insulin resistance, triglycerides and HDL, or good cholesterol.”
Low-carb diets (such as Atkins and South Beach) were also studied. While they were given the biggest metabolic benefit initially, there are long-term problems. In practice, people have trouble sticking to them. They also elevate chronic inflammation, and cortisol, a hormone that controls stress. “Both of these,” says Ludwig, “are tightly linked to long term-heart risk and mortality.”
Dr. Ludwig says that it should not be forgotten that in any weight loss program, exercise is a key component.