Eating a low-carb diet may help reduce both hunger and food cravings, according to a small new study published in The FASEB Journal.
Carbohydrates are a type of nutrient that includes sugars (as found in table sugar, fruit, and milk, for example) as well as starches (as found in foods such as bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, and cereal). Previous research has indicated possible benefits of low-carb diets for both diabetes and weight control. To evaluate the effects of a high-fat, low-carb diet — with roughly 54% of calories coming from fat and 14% of calories coming from carbohydrate — on food cravings, researchers from Atkins Nutritionals (manufacturer of commercial low-carb meals) and the University of Missouri enrolled 20 obese men and women in a four-week study. For the first two weeks, the participants were provided with a combination of commercially and freshly prepared low-carb meals, and for the last two weeks, they prepared their own low-carb meals. The subjects were given a survey at the beginning and end of the study period to report on hunger levels and food cravings.
At the end of the study period, the participants had lost an average of 5.7 kilograms (approximately 12.5 pounds) and reduced their waist circumference by 5.6 centimeters (about 2.2 inches). Additionally, 60% reported feeling less hungry after meals, 75% indicated a reduction in “eating when bored,” and cravings for sweets and starchy foods decreased by 10% and 6%, respectively.
“Many individuals entering weight-loss programs may believe that restriction of a certain type of food (e.g., carbohydrate, CHO) may increase their cravings for that food,” the study authors note. “These results suggest that cravings for sweets and [carbohydrate] may not increase when these foods [are] restricted in the diet. Moreover, consumption of a high-fat, low-[carbohydrate] diet was associated with reductions in cravings for all food categories.”
Because of the study’s small size and lack of a comparison diet (to determine whether the effects seen were due to the low-carb diet or to some other factor, such as weight loss), further research is needed to confirm the results.
For more information, see the article “Low-Carb Diets May Help Correct Habitual Eating Behaviors, New Study Finds,” or the study’s abstract in The FASEB Journal. And to learn more about low-carb diets and diabetes, read “How Low is Low Carb?” by nurse David Spero.
Want to incorporate more low-carb meals into your diet? Try our recipes for Creamy Baked Chicken with Artichokes and Mushrooms, Tuna Cakes with Creamy Cucumber Sauce, or Asparagus and Cheddar Stuffed Chicken Breast!
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Diane Fennell: Diane Fennell has been an editor at Diabetes Self-Management magazine since 2003. She is currently the Editorial Director. (Diane Fennell is not a medical professional.)
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