Obesity Fad Diets High Carb

The popularity of low carb diets in the 1990s and early 2000s demonized carbohydrates. The attitudes of the low carb diet craze linger: The idea of a high carb diet for the treatment of obesity seems almost heretical in the face of the low carb craze.

Evidence suggests, however, that high carb foods can help people lose weight. High carb diets that work don’t advocate eating just any type of carbohydrates. High carb foods with complex carbohydrates are preferred to those with simple carbs.

High Carb Foods

Carbohydrates include sugars, starches and fiber. Fiber contains no calories, while sugars and starches are converted into glucose, which provides the body with energy.

High carb foods can be broadly divided into two types:

  • Simple carbohydrates are sugars, many of which have been refined and processed. Simple carbs are often present in high amounts in processed foods, such as carbonated sodas, white bread, candy and cookies.
  • Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, include sugars, starches and fiber. Complex carbs tend to be digested more slowly, and fiber lowers the risk of heart attack and diabetes. Soluble fiber also helps lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels. Complex carbs include whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

High carb diets that work don’t recommend eating carbs indiscriminately. Complex carbohydrates are emphasized, while simple carbs and fats are limited.

The advantages to a high carb diet are that it doesn’t restrict types of foods and encourages ongoing lifestyle changes. Eating more vegetables and fruits is a much healthier suggestion than, say, eating only cabbage soup (a feature of the infamous cabbage soup diet). Nor does a high carb diet ask people to cut calories to dangerously low levels.

Do High Carb Diets Work?

According to a Canadian study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association (2009), a diet high in complex carbs that restricts fats to less than 20 percent of total consumption promotes weight loss.

This study analyzed the diet habits of 4,451 Canadians. Those who ate lower carbs were most likely to be obese or overweight, while those who ate high carb foods were slimmer.

The slimmest participants in the study obtained 47 to 64 percent of their daily energy intake from carbohydrates. This group tended to consume dietary fiber, fruits, vegetables and limited saturated fats.

The study noted that once carbohydrate consumption reached 290 to 310 grams a day, the carb eaters were likely to be overweight or obese, but less so than those who ate less carbs.

The argument between the low and high carb diet camps is likely to continue, but studies such as the Canadian survey suggest that eating a healthy diet high in fruits, vegetables and complex carbs remains the best treatment of obesity.


Healthy Eating Club. (2004). Weight loss diets: Low, moderate or high carbohydrate? Retrieved May 25, 2010, from http://www.healthyeatingclub.com/info/articles/body-shape/lowcarbevidence.htm.

Merchant, A. T., Vatanparast, H., Barlas, S., Dehghan, Mahboob, M. S., Shah, A,…