Protein-rich, low-GI diet protects weight loss, study finds
Weight management should, in theory, be a simple math problem: Balance calories consumed with calories burned, and your weight should remain steady. Shift that balance, and your weight should shift accordingly.
But a big body of research has grown around the notion that it's not just how much you eat but exactly what you eat that makes a difference in weight management. In that field, carbs and proteins, fiber and fat are all duking it out as scientists try to figure out just what perfect mix of nutrients is best, not just at whittling people's waists but also at keeping them whittled down for the long haul.
The latest salvo came late last week when the New England Journal of Medicine published a European study showing that folks who followed a diet in which higher-protein, lower-glycemic-index foods prevailed were better able to maintain their recent weight loss than those who ate less protein and higher-glycemic-value foods. And those who followed a low-protein, high-glycemic-index diet were more likely to regain their lost weight.
The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how foods affect blood glucose levels; foods such as whole grains and beans, for instance, that have lower GI values cause smaller fluctuations in those levels, which in turn appears to help regulate your appetite. Foods with high GI values tend to cause big swings in blood sugars, which can contribute to less-controlled eating behaviors.
One problem, though, as this blog points out, is that people have a hard time figuring out which foods have low glycemic indices. And it's not always the case that lower-GI foods are better for you: A Snickers bar and a cup of brown rice have the same GI (55, which counts as "low").
But as this article notes, just as protein tends to help keep you feeling full longer than some other nutrients, so might low-GI foods. That might help explain why many fewer participants following the high-protein/low GI-diet than those following the other diet dropped out of the study: They might have found their diets more satisfying and easier to stick with.
Stepping back from the jargon, the study's findings comport with my own recent weight-loss experience. I've relied largely on lean proteins (hooray for chicken!) and on foods such as apples and black beans that turn out to have low glycemic values.
How about you? Do you, wittingly or unwittingly, follow a higher-protein, lower GI-diet? If not, does this latest research compel you to investigate such a diet?
Jennifer LaRue Huget
| November 30, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories: Diabetes, Me Minus 10, Nutrition and Fitness, Obesity, glycemic index
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