A low-sugar diet burns more calories and loses more weight

A new study published in the journal BMJ reports that energy expenditure is all the higher when the share of carbohydrates in the diet is low.

The low carbohydrate diet is regularly talked about. Reducing carbohydrates, through its effect on the insulin/glucagon ratio, may help maintain weight loss by increasing energy expenditure and reducing hunger.

In this new study, 164 people with a BMI > 25 were put on a diet for 12 weeks to lose 12% of their body weight. After which, they were divided into three groups according to the proportion of carbohydrates in their diet: 20%, 40% or 60% of energy. Protein content was set at 20% of energy in all 3 groups.

Increased energy expenditure up to 278 kcal per day

70% of participants reached their weight loss goal at 12 weeks. During the 20 weeks of the stabilization phase, energy expenditure increased with the low carbohydrate diet: up to 278 kcal/day more compared to the high carbohydrate diet.

Expenditure increases linearly by 52 kcal per 10% decrease in carbohydrates in the diet. The authors also note that the levels of ghrelin, the ordemanding hormone, are lower with the low-carbohydrate diet.

These results were widely publicized with very favorable messages vis-à-vis low carbohydrate diets, which would be much more effective in losing weight, which is not exactly what this study shows…

More research is needed before concluding.

Although an increase in energy expenditure can theoretically be associated with a reduction in weight, in this study participants were provided with all meals, these conditions do not reflect those of everyday life.

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Other longer-term studies will therefore be needed to definitively conclude that the low carbohydrate diet is of greater benefit for weight loss through this increase in energy expenditure.

Ebbeling C. et al., Effects of a low carbohydrate diet on energy expenditure during weight loss maintenance: randomized trial. BMJ 363, k4583.


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