Low-carb diets may help correct habitual eating behaviours, new study finds

Camille Bienvenu
Mon, 15 May 2017
Low-carb diets may help correct habitual eating behaviours, new study finds
A new study, published in the FASEB Journal, suggests that a low-carb diet may help reduce hunger and food cravings, which would explain the sustained increase in adherence and reduced energy intake often seen with this way of eating.

The findings are in line with the reports of many people with type 2 diabetes, formerly obese low-carb dieters as well as the results of studies comparing low and high-carb diets head to head suggesting low-carb diets proves effective for weight loss because of their satiating effect.

As the authors explain, "many individuals entering weight loss programs may believe that restriction of a certain type of food (e.g. carbohydrate) may increase their cravings for that food." The study showed that the reverse is true.

Over the course of a four-week intervention involving 20 obese men and women, the participants lost a highly significant amount of body weight (5.7 kg) and, more importantly, were able to reduce their waist circumference by 5.6 cm.

The results of the survey handed to participants after the four-week period revealed that 95 per cent reported being somewhat satisfied to very satisfied with the meals, 60 per cent felt less hunger after meals, and 75 per cent reported reduced 'eating when bored'.

With regard to the underlying research question, the authors observed a high baseline craving for sweet foods (45 per cent of subjects reported frequent cravings for sweets) that did not increase with low-carb dieting.

In fact, after weight loss, cravings for sweets and starchy foods were reduced by significant 10 per cent and six per cent, respectively. The participants were also less susceptible to fall victim to their (now reduced) cravings.

This new paper is, however, based on a study that was sponsored by Atkins Nutritionals, which can raise questions about possible vested interests or biases. The intervention was also non-controlled, which significantly reduces its meaningfulness.

Overall, the study provides evidence for the commonly heard claim that low-carbing would reduce food cravings. It does not, however, prove that a similar effect wouldn't have been observed simply due to weight loss with other diets.

Furthermore, it has been suggested that metabolic, genetic and/or lifestyle differences may also, in part, determine whether a low-carb diet will curb appetite and decrease sweet and starch cravings in a given individual.
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