Research indicates that our weight is affected more by what we eat than by how much we eat

A randomized controlled trial conducted by several institutions including Boston Children’s Hospital and the Harvard Medical School over three years and published last week in a peer-reviewed medical journal concludes that, “Consistent with the carbohydrate-insulin model, lowering dietary carbohydrate increased energy expenditure during weight loss maintenance. This metabolic effect may improve the success of obesity treatment, especially among those with high insulin secretion.”

As summarized in ScienceDaily, “Most people regain the weight they lose from dieting within one or two years, in part because the body adapts by slowing metabolism and burning fewer calories. A meticulous study now finds that eating fewer carbohydrates increases the number of calories burned. The findings suggest that low-carb diets can help people maintain weight loss, making obesity treatment more effective.”

One of the study’s authors, Dr. David Ludwig, explains in the Los Angeles Times, “As anyone who’s gone on a diet knows, once you lose some weight, it gets harder to lose more. The ‘eat less, move more’ mantra, as simple as it sounds, doesn’t help us deal with our bodies’ metabolic reality: As we shed pounds, we get even hungrier and our metabolism slows down. But findings from a new study I led with my colleague Cara Ebbeling suggest that what we eat — not just how much — has a substantial effect on our metabolism and thus how much weight we gain or lose.”

Dr. Ludwig continues, “People have a hard time believing that weight control isn’t just a matter of calories eaten and calories burned. But there is an alternate hypothesis about obesity, which is what my group studies. The carbohydrate-insulin model argues that overeating isn’t the underlying cause of long-term weight gain. Instead, it’s the biological process of gaining weight that causes us to overeat. Here’s how this hypothesis goes: Consuming processed carbohydrates (especially refined grains, potato products and sugars), causes our bodies to produce more insulin. Too much insulin, one of the most powerful hormones, forces our fat cells into calorie-storage overdrive. These rapidly growing fat cells then hoard too many calories, leaving too few for the rest of the body. So we get hungry, and if we persist in eating less, our metabolism slows down.”

He concludes, “The calories-in, calories-out view offers no compelling biological explanation for the obesity epidemic beyond ‘it’s complicated,’ ‘many factors are involved’ and ultimately, we eat too much. But if the type of calories consumed affect the number of calories burned, this trend starts to make more sense. The processed carbohydrates that flooded the food supply during the low-fat diet era of the last 40 years pushed the body weight set-point up across the population. Our findings suggest that a more effective strategy to lose weight over the long term is to focus on cutting processed carbohydrates, not calories.

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10 Comments

  1. Thank you, Dr. Westman, for all that you do. CARBage clearly flips a “carb” switch that makes it impossible to eat only until satiated. I am inspired!

    Reply
    • Eric Westman MD MHS

      I’m honored to be an inspiration!

      Reply
  2. This advice is working for me. I started following your page four list of foods to eat and not eat (approximately 20g carb a day) on May 27th of this year, and almost exactly six months later, I have lost almost 50 lbs, my A1c which was taken at 3 months in, went from a prediabetic 6.3 to a normal 5.1. My triglycerides went from 111 to 66, and I have more energy, which I need as the mother of a large family. I am no longer falling asleep all the time which I was when I was eating more carbs. Thank you for what you do, and for spreading the low carb message.

    Reply
    • Eric Westman MD MHS

      Great to hear!

      Reply
  3. How much should somebody eat? I’ve read so many different theories.

    Reply
    • Eric Westman MD MHS

      On a Keto or LCHF diet, most people automatically adjust to eating what ‘they need’ by eating only when hungry!

      Reply
  4. Dr Westman’s low carb approach has helped me lose 45 pounds and my 82 yo mom lost 26 and got off metformin.

    Reply
    • Eric Westman MD MHS

      Great to hear!

      Reply
  5. Thank you Dr. Westman! I have successfully followed a LCHF lifestyle for over four years now, and seem to have no problem keeping the 35+ pounds I lost in the first 6 months off. I love your book, The New Atkins for a New You, and promote the principles there. Why does the establishment and people generally continue to promote and buy the “eat less/move more solution,” when it’s really only ever been part of the problem?

    Reply
    • Eric Westman MD MHS

      Many vested interests don’t want people to know how to lose weight and fix their diabetes just by changing their lifestyle!

      Reply

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Disclaimer: This website does not provide medical advice or treatment. Follow the guidance of a physician before embarking on any diabetes-management or weight-loss program, especially if you are on dialysis, pregnant, nursing or under the age of 18. If you are taking medications, changing your diet under the HEALcare® program may require a change in their dosages. Follow your doctor’s orders on all medications, especially if you are taking diuretics or medication for blood pressure or diabetes. Individual results may vary. The testimonials referenced in this website are not promises or guarantees that you will achieve similar results.

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