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High-carb consumers healthier than expected


Contrary to certain 'fad diets' that promote fewer carbohydrates in favour of more protein and fat, US researchers claim this week that people who consume a high carbohydrate diet apparently eat fewer calories per day and are less likely to be obese than people who eat higher levels of fat and protein.

The study, based on a data analysis of carbohydrate intakes from the US Department of Agriculture's Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals for the years 1994-1996, reveals that people whose diets were highest in carbohydrates not only consumed 200 to 300 fewer calories per day, but also had diets higher in nutrients. The data was collected and managed by the ARS , the USDA's chief scientific research agency.

In the study, scientists divided a nationwide pool of 10,014 people into four carbohydrate-intake dietary patterns, from lowest to highest. People eating the high-carbohydrate diet gained 55 per cent or more of their calories from carbohydrates; in the lowest carbohydrate diet, people consumed 30 per cent or less of their calories from carbohydrates. Evidence found that people eating the high-carbohydrate diet were also more likely to meet the federal government's Dietary Guidelines for Americans' recommendations for both total fat (no more than 30 per cent) and saturated fat (no more than 10 per cent).

According to nutritionist and lead author Shanthy A. Bowman, the high-carbohydrate group had to eat more food to get 1,000 calories than those in the low-carbohydrate group because of the choices they made.

Those in the high-carbohydrate diet had the highest fruit and fibre intake, and they made low-fat choices from milk, meat, poultry and fish products. They also had the lowest average body-mass index (BMI), which indicates the percentage of fat in the body.

The study appears in the June 2002 issue of the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.