Vegan, low-calorie, Mediterranean, even intermittent fasting: today there are a myriad of diets that guarantee rapid or gradual weight loss depending on each individual’s needs. But which one is really effective, without harming your health? Harvard researchers have looked into the subject, suggesting that low-carb diets consisting mainly of plant-based proteins and fats, as well as so-called “healthy” carbohydrates, slow weight gain in the long term.
“Our study goes beyond the simple question of ‘carbs or no carbs’. She dissects the low-carb diet and provides a nuanced look at how the composition of these diets can affect health over years, not just weeks or months.“, explains Binkai Liu, of the nutrition department at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, who coordinated this work, in a press release. To reach such conclusions, the researchers set out to evaluate different types of diets low in carbohydrates, the benefits of which we already know for losing weight but in the short term.
The team of American scientists analyzed the diet and weight of 123,332 healthy adults, between 1986 and 2018, from three large studies (Nurses’ Health Study, Nurses’ Health Study II and Health Professionals Follow-up Study). . All people included in this research were asked to provide information on their diet and weight every four years, knowing that the researchers based themselves on five categories of low-carbohydrate diets. Which could in particular be focused on fats and proteins of animal – or vegetable – origin but also on a lower overall carbohydrate intake.
Published in the journal JAMA Network Open, their work reveals that the most effective diets for less weight gain in the long term are those based on proteins and fats of plant origin and on so-called “healthy” carbohydrates – in other words including plant-based proteins, healthy fats and fewer refined carbohydrates. The researchers specify that the participants who chose the three other diets, including the one composed of proteins and fats of animal origin, gained on average more weight than the others over the years. They also indicate that these findings were even more conclusive in participants aged under 55 who were overweight or obese, and less physically active.
More fruits, vegetables and legumes
According to this work, these are diets based on legumes (lentils, beans), whole grains, or soy-based products, as well as vegetable oils, avocados and seeds, among others. others, associated with fruits and vegetables, and low-fat dairy products, which would be the most efficient in the long term. Note, however, that the conclusions of the scientists were a little more mixed on the diet based on proteins and fats of plant origin: only the participants from the Nurses’ Health Study II significantly reported less weight gain. long-term. This should lead researchers to carry out more in-depth work.
“The bottom line is that not all low-carb diets are equal when it comes to long-term weight management. Our findings could shake up the way we view popular low-carb diets and suggest that public health initiatives should continue to promote dietary patterns that emphasize healthy foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products“, concludes one of the main authors of the study.
These results are consistent with the nutritional recommendations defined in the National Nutrition and Health Program (PNNS) launched in the early 2000s in Europe. This includes favoring fruits and vegetables, dried vegetables, unsalted nuts, and homemade products, to the detriment of sugary drinks, fatty, salty, sweet, and ultra-processed foods, meat, cold meats, or even alcohol. It is also advisable to turn to wholemeal breads and cereals, alternating fatty and lean fish, and rapeseed, nut and olive oils. All complemented by regular physical activity.