Low Carb Diet Debate

Results of
two new studies on low-carbohydrate diets support the position of the American
Dietetic Association that the most effective method of healthy lifelong weight
management includes an eating plan that is based on complex carbohydrates such
as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, moderate in protein and relatively low
in fat, coupled with daily physical activity.

The studies, in the May 22 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, look
at the effectiveness of “carbohydrate-restricted” diets over six
months and low-carb, high-protein, high-fat approaches such as the Atkins Diet
over three, six and 12 months.

findings confirm what we already know,” said registered dietitian and
American Dietetic Association spokesperson Kathleen Zelman. “There is no
magic bullet to safe and healthful weight loss.”

Zelman added: “In the short term, these studies show you can achieve
weight loss with low-carb diets. But in the long term, success rates were not
different from people who are on a more ‘traditional’ diet. These results don’t
change ADA’s recommendations for achieving healthful weight that can be
sustained over a lifetime.”

ADA’s advice is based on the National Academy of Sciences’ recommendations that
adults obtain 45 percent to 65 percent of their calories from carbohydrates, 20
percent to 35 percent from fat and 10 percent to 35 percent from protein.

“These recommendations provide you with a good deal of room to increase
your level of protein, which other recent studies have suggested can be
effective, without going to the level of the Atkins Diet,” Zelman said.
“You can move toward the higher end of the protein range, stay at the
lower end of the fat range and make sure your carbohydrates are complex,
meaning whole grains such as whole wheat pasta.”

Registered dietitian and ADA spokesperson Keith Ayoob noted that many people in
the studies apparently had trouble staying with the low-carbohydrate diet and
there were many dropouts.

“Twelve months is an equalizer,” Ayoob said. “You hit a wall.
Your lifestyle starts to be affected and you get bored. A high dropout rate is
a sign that extreme diets can be difficult to maintain. People start to realize
they don’t want to avoid their favorite foods, even in small amounts, for a long

With nearly 70,000 members, the American Dietetic Association is the nation’s
largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The Chicago-based ADA
serves the public by promoting optimal nutrition, health and well-being. Visit
ADA at www.eatright.org.

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