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Low-Carb Diet Best for Weight Maintenance

Many dieters have success in losing weight but can’t seem to maintain their weight loss. Now, a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association provides some answers.

The study suggests certain foods and diets work better than others when it comes to calorie-burning and weight-loss maintenance. Indeed the results indicate that all calories are not alike.

Twenty-one overweight and obese adults (age 18-40) who had lost 10-15% of their original body weight by following a 45% carbohydrate, 30% fat, 25% protein diet were assigned to one of three four-week diet plans:

Low-Fat: a 60% carbohydrate, 20% fat, 20% protein diet consisting of mostly whole grains, vegetables, and fruit.

Low-Glycemic Index: a 40% carbohydrate, 40% fat, and 20% protein diet consisting of minimally-processed grains, legumes, vegetables, and healthy fats.

Very-Low-Carbohydrate: a 10% carbohydrate, 60% fat, and 30% protein diet modeled after the Atkins plan.

All participants consumed 1,600 calories daily, regardless of their specific diet plan, and analysis showed that when compared to participants on the low-fat eating plan, individuals on the very-low-carbohydrate diet burned about 300 more calories per day while at rest. Those on the low-glycemic plan burned about 150 more calories daily.

The findings suggest that low-fat diets can have the unintended effect of slowing metabolism and burning calories inefficiently. By contrast, very-low-carb and low-glycemic plans can result in better insulin sensitivity (necessary to process blood sugar effectively) and cholesterol levels.

Unfortunately, the low-carb diet had the negative effect of raising levels of cortisone — a stress hormone which is associated with inflammation and increased cardiovascular risk.


For many dieters, the challenge is not losing weight initially, but maintaining that weight loss over time. This explains why the vast majority of dieters gain back almost all of the weight they work so hard to lose.

Part of the problem is that the factors that lead to successful weight maintenance are somewhat different than those required for weight loss. But, in either case, dieters must limit the amount of carbs they eat. The current study affirmed that adopting this dietary pattern is an ideal strategy for weight maintenance.

Based on a national survey, the following practices were also associated with weight maintenance:

Dietary Practices

Limit the amount of carbs you eat

Eat plenty of low-fat sources of protein

Read nutrition labels

Control your portions

Physical Activity Practices

Follow a consistent exercise routine

Cognitive Practices

Think about how much progress you’ve made

Reward yourself for sticking to your diet or exercise plan

Think about your goal for a healthy weight

Tracking Practices

Weigh yourself

By putting some or all of these practices into place, you can ensure greater success in maintaining your weight loss

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