A new study published in JCI Insight confirms the belief that a high intake of carbohydrates is unhealthy, whether a person is trying to lose weight or not. A low-carb, high-fat diet improves the metabolic syndrome, whether our weight changes or not. Improvement in metabolic syndrome refers to a reduction in waist circumference, triglycerides, HDL-C, blood pressure, and fasting glucose.
The basic premise behind the benefits of a low-carb diet is connected to insulin resistance. By limiting our carb intake, we avoid the secretion of insulin, which improves our overall health. But while there has been a great deal of discussion regarding the weight loss benefits of a low-carb diet, this particular study was conducted to examine whether carbohydrates are intrinsically bad or whether they are bad only for people who are overweight.
Study participants were randomised to three different diets for 4-week periods. One was a low-carb diet, one was a moderate-carb diet, and one was a high-carb diet. For all the three diets, protein levels were fixed. Every patient followed one diet with a 2-week washout period in between. The diets were designed to have a total caloric content that was not geared towards weight loss. This was because the purpose was not to evaluate whether there was weight loss. The purpose was to evaluate which diet was the most healthy.
Findings showed a significant reduction in fasting glucose levels and triglycerides in the low-carb group, but no significant change was observed in waist circumference or blood pressure. HDL was higher in the low-carb group. Blood levels of saturated fats were found to be much lower in the low-carb group even though they had a higher intake of saturated fat.
Overall, these findings indicate that while low-carb diets are beneficial for those who are interested in losing weight, the same diet can provide benefits to others as well. This is because carbs are intrinsically bad for us. Even if our goal is not to lose weight, we should still try to follow a low-carb diet to sustain healthy body weight and improved metabolic syndrome.