How Carbohydrates and Obesity are Linked: The Kind, Not the Amount
It's the kind of carbohydrates you consume, not the number, that becomes a reflection of the number on your bathroom scale. Contrary to popular belief, overweight people don't eat more carbohydrates than those of normal weight. However, it was discovered that overweight people were more inclined to eat an excess of refined carbohydrates such as white bread and pasta, which trigger a rapid spike in blood sugar.
The culprit of weight gain, refined carbohydrates, can be found in processed foods high in sugar. Refined carbohydrates add on extra pounds through their high glycemic index, which means they cause a quick surge in blood sugar. The sugar is then stored in muscle and if it is not used it turns into fat.
On the contrary, other carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables don't have high glycemic indexes.
Even though statistics showed that people are eating less fat, it was revealed that over the course of the past 20 years the rate of obesity has been steadily increasing.
To determine if carbohydrates played a factor in obesity researchers conducted a study by measuring the height and weight of nearly 600 healthy participants. One of the main requirements of the study was for the participants to document the kind of carbohydrates they ate for one year.
The study revealed two key findings:
- People with a higher body mass index--a measure of weight that factors in height -- tended to eat carbohydrates with a higher glycemic index
- The amount of carbohydrates people ate had no influence on body mass index
Researchers of the study also noted that some countries are now adding glycemic levels on food labels as a guideline to those who are trying to lose weight or control diabetes.
American Journal of Epidemiology February 15, 2005;161(4):359-367
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Alexandra Solano, MD