SOURCE: Kraft Foods

April 04, 2005 11:34 ET

New Study Suggests Being 'Choosy' About Carbohydrates and Other Foods May Be More Important Than Counting Calories

Researchers Find a Modified-Carbohydrate Diet Was Almost Twice as Effective as a Low-Fat, Portion-Controlled Plan

SAN DIEGO, CA, -- (MARKET WIRE) -- April 4, 2005 -- Most people who are trying to lose weight start by counting calories -- even weighing and measuring out precise portions. But a new study suggests you might be more successful if you focus on changing the types of foods you eat.

Researchers at Chicago-based Radiant Research found that overweight and obese adults who followed the principles of The South Beach Diet™ (Rodale, 2003) lost more weight and body fat compared to dieters who adopted a low-fat, portion-controlled plan.

"The results showed that by modifying the amount and type of carbohydrates and increasing lean sources of protein, people were able to lose almost twice the amount of weight and body fat as people who followed a more traditional approach of counting calories and limiting portions," said lead researcher Kevin Maki, Ph.D., who presented his findings today at the Experimental Biology scientific conference, Abstract # [448.5].

The new study, funded by Kraft Foods, was conducted by Dr. Maki and his colleagues at Radiant Research -- a research company that specializes in conducting clinical trials. Kraft announced an alliance with Dr. Agatston in June 2004 and is committed to supporting research to document the effectiveness of the South Beach Diet.

Dr. Maki and colleagues evaluated the weight loss of 86 overweight/obese men and women, ages 18 to 65, who followed two different diets for 12 weeks. One group was on a traditional low-fat diet and decreased portion sizes to shave off at least 500 calories a day.

The second group was told simply to eat until hunger was satisfied. They were instructed to follow a "modified-carbohydrate diet," which was consistent with the recommendations outlined in The South Beach Diet, developed by Miami cardiologist Arthur Agatston, M.D. These participants changed the type and amount of carbohydrates -- replaced refined grains with the slower-digesting and more nutrient-rich whole grains -- and focused on lean sources of protein.

Impact of Modifying Carbohydrates

The dieters on the modified-carbohydrate eating plan lost significantly more weight and body fat compared to their counterparts on the low-fat, portion-controlled diet. They also experienced significant improvements in triglycerides and the ratio of total to HDL or "good" cholesterol. Research suggests improving these factors are linked to a reduced risk of heart disease.

"Adopting an eating plan that includes a moderate intake of carbohydrates with an emphasis on nutrient-rich whole grains appears to enhance weight loss," Dr. Maki said.

"It's encouraging to see the strong results of this study, which are consistent with what I have seen in my own practice," said Dr. Agatston. "My patients are able to enjoy a variety of foods without counting calories or feeling deprived," he said. "This is more evidence that calories still count, but that you don't necessarily need to count calories."

Calorie Balance

The participants in the study who followed the principles of The South Beach Diet tended to consume fewer calories than those on the portion-controlled plan, even though they were not counting calories and were instructed to eat until hunger was satisfied.

"Our results add to the growing body of evidence suggesting that modifying the quantity and quality of carbohydrates in the diet and changing the types of food you eat may have important influences on regulating calorie balance," Dr. Maki said.

While the reasons dieters on the modified-carbohydrate plan consumed fewer calories are not fully explained, Dr. Maki said one hypothesis relates to the satiety value of the meal plan. Participants may have experienced greater feelings of fullness so they ate less, he said.

The South Beach Diet focuses on the right carbohydrates, the right fats and lean sources of protein to help people feel more satisfied on fewer calories.

Source: Maki KC, Rains™, Kaden VN, Quinn J, Davidson MH. A randomized, controlled clinical trial to evaluate the efficacy of a modified carbohydrate diet for reducing body weight and fat in overweight and obese men and women. Experimental Biology 2005. Abstract # (448.5).

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