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Dietary Choices Impact Long-term Weight Control For Middle-aged Adults Study Finds Health News

A recent study from the United States underscores the significance of dietary choices in managing weight as individuals age. While the role of carbohydrates in weight management has been a subject of debate, this research highlights the scarcity of studies investigating changes in carbohydrate intake over time and their effects on long-term weight fluctuations.

The study reveals that an increased consumption of carbohydrates from sources like sugary beverages, white bread, and potatoes contributes to accelerated weight gain during middle age. However, swapping these culprits for whole grains, fruits, and non-starchy vegetables can provide better control over body weight.

To explore this correlation, the research team analysed the body weight changes of 136,432 individuals aged 65, collected at four-year intervals spanning 24 years. The data was drawn from participants in the Nurses' Health Study (1986-2010), Nurses' Health Study II (1991-2015), and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (1986-2014). Importantly, participants were initially free from various health conditions, including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and more.

Throughout the study, participants completed questionnaires about their lifestyle, medical history, and other health-related factors every two to four years. The findings revealed that, on average, participants gained 1.5 kilograms every four years, amounting to 8.8 kilograms over the 24-year period.

The research found that an increase of 100 grams per day in added starch intake was linked to a 1.5-kilogram increase in weight gain over four years, while added sugar contributed to an additional 0.9 kilograms. Conversely, individuals who consumed an extra 10 grams of fibre daily gained less weight (0.8 kilograms). Those who sourced their carbohydrates from whole grains (0.4 kilograms), fruit (1.6 kilograms), and non-starchy vegetables (3 kilograms) also experienced lower weight gain.

In contrast, participants who increased their intake of refined grains, such as white bread, gained an extra 0.8 kilograms, as did those with a higher consumption of starchy vegetables like corn and potatoes (2.6 kilograms). These associations were more pronounced in females and those with excessive body weight.

Published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the paper emphasises the potential significance of carbohydrate quality and source in long-term weight management. It advises limiting added sugar, sugar-sweetened beverages, refined grains, and starchy vegetables in favour of whole grains, fruits, and non-starchy vegetables to support weight control efforts.

The researchers acknowledge that the study is observational and has certain limitations, including reliance on self-reported estimates of carbohydrate intake and potential errors in dietary measurement.

Bridget Benelam, a nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation, commented on the study, stating, "This study adds to the evidence we already have that carbohydrate quality in the diet is important for health. While 'carbs' have faced criticism regarding weight gain, we know that choosing whole-grain and higher-fibre options, such as wholemeal bread, wholemeal pasta, or potatoes with skins, has health benefits. Our healthy eating guidance already recommends swapping refined carbohydrate foods like white bread or pasta for whole-grain versions, and this study suggests that this may also support weight control."

Source: British Medical Journal - The Independent