Plant-based low-carb diets for gradual weight control

Weight change in relation to low-carb diet macronutrients.


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Eating plant-based proteins and healthy fats in low-carb diets is linked to less long-term weight gain than diets with animal proteins and unhealthy carbs, reveals a Harvard study published in JAMA Network Open on December 27, 2023.

Lead author Binkai Liu, research assistant in the Department of Nutrition, said, “Our study goes beyond the simple question of, ‘To carb or not to carb? It dissects the low-carbohydrate diet and provides a nuanced look at how the composition of these diets can affect health over years, not just weeks or months.”

While short-term studies support cutting carbs for weight loss, few explore low-carb diets for long-term weight control and food group quality. Using data from long-term studies, researchers examined 123,332 adults from 1986 to 2018.

Participants reported diets and weights every four years, and researchers scored diets on five low-carb categories. Results showed that the quality of low-carb diets, particularly those with plant-based proteins and healthy fats, played a role in long-term weight maintenance. The study contributes to understanding how low-carb diets impact weight control over an extended period.

A study says that eating diets rich in plant-based proteins, healthy fats, and good carbs is linked to slower long-term weight gain. Participants following total low-carb (TLCD), animal-based low-carb (ALCD), and unhealthy low-carb (ULCD) diets gained more weight than those on a healthy low-carb (HLCD) diet.

This was especially true for younger (<55), higher weight, or less active participants. The impact of vegetable-based low-carb diets varied: one study showed less weight gain, while others had mixed results. The study provides insights into how diet choices affect long-term weight changes.

Senior author Qi Sun, associate professor in the Department of Nutrition, said, “The key takeaway here is that not all low-carbohydrate diets are created equal when managing weight in the long term. Our findings could shake up how we think about popular low-carbohydrate diets and suggest that public health initiatives should continue promoting dietary patterns that emphasize healthful foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products.”

In conclusion, choosing low-carb diets with healthy, plant-based foods is linked to gradual, lasting weight control.

Journal reference:

  1. Binkai Liu, MS1; Yang Hu, ScD1, et al., Low-Carbohydrate Diet Macronutrient Quality and Weight Change. JAMA Network Open. DOI:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.49552.


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