Replacing refined carbs with whole grains and fruit linked to lower midlife weight gain.

Replacing refined carbs with whole grains and fruit linked to lower midlife weight gain.

The Link Between Carbohydrates and Weight Gain in Midlife

Apples Adding fresh fruit to your diet is one way to help prevent midlife weight gain. Catherine Falls Commercial/Getty Images

Are you noticing some extra pounds creeping on as you enter midlife? Well, you’re not alone. According to a study published in the journal BMJ, increased consumption of refined carbohydrates can lead to more significant weight gain during this stage of life[^1^]. But don’t worry, there are ways to prevent this extra weight gain and maintain your health and well-being.

The Study

The study focused on data from 136,432 men and women aged 65 and younger who were enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study, the Nurses’ Health Study II, and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. These participants were free of health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory diseases, among others[^1^].

Over the course of 24 to 28 years, the participants gained an average of 3 pounds every four years and almost 19 pounds overall. The researchers found that weight gain was associated with an increase in the glycemic index and glycemic load, which measure the effects of different foods on blood sugar levels[^1^].

However, it’s important to note that this study only shows a relationship and not a causation between the types of food we eat and weight gain in midlife. Dr. Holly Lofton, a physician at NYU Langone in New York specializing in obesity medicine, explains that the study’s design does not allow for a definitive cause-and-effect conclusion[^1^].

Simple Sugars and Weight Gain

The study did confirm what experts already know: simple sugars contribute to weight gain. The associations between increased weight gain and refined carbs were particularly strong among women and individuals with excessive body weight[^1^].

For women, hormones may play a role in affecting the metabolic process, making them more susceptible to weight gain. On the other hand, people with excess weight may have higher calorie needs, leading them to overconsume these foods without realizing the amount they are consuming[^1^].

Dr. Mir Ali, a bariatric surgeon and medical director of a surgical weight loss center, explains that when carbs are limited, the body is forced to burn fat for fuel, resulting in weight loss[^1^]. So, choosing the right foods becomes crucial.

Choosing Healthy Carbohydrates

Gone are the days of the food pyramid as a guide to daily eating. Health professionals now emphasize the importance of choosing the right carbohydrates to maintain a healthy weight. The current study found that weight gain was primarily associated with foods containing added sugar and starches[^1^].

Instead of refined grains, starchy vegetables, and sugar-sweetened drinks, it’s recommended to replace them with whole grains, fruits, and non-starchy vegetables[^1^]. These choices have been associated with less weight gain.

Registered dietitian nutritionist Anne Danahy explains that not all calories are created equal and the quality of carbohydrates often plays a bigger role in weight loss or gain than quantity[^1^]. High-fiber, low-glycemic foods can help control weight by minimizing blood sugar and insulin levels, reducing the risk of chronic conditions like cancer and heart disease[^1^].

Here are some examples of low-glycemic foods to include in your diet:

  • Rolled or steel-cut oats
  • Butter beans
  • Peas
  • Non-starchy vegetables
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Fruits
  • Chickpeas
  • Carrots
  • Kidney beans
  • Lentils

Aim for at least 25 to 35 grams of fiber daily, as fiber takes longer to digest, keeping you full longer and balancing your glucose and insulin levels[^1^].

Structuring a Healthy Diet

For those who are already overweight, unhealthy diets can have a more severe impact due to a combination of genetic and social factors[^1^]. It is important for healthcare professionals to incorporate regular nutritional evaluation and counseling in their practice.

Walter Willett, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition, suggests emphasizing the inclusion of whole grains and non-starchy vegetables in diets while reducing refined grains, sugary beverages, and starchy vegetables like potatoes[^1^].

So, if you’re looking to prevent midlife weight gain and maintain a healthy lifestyle, consider making healthier choices when it comes to carbohydrates. Opt for whole grains, fruits, and non-starchy vegetables, while limiting refined grains, added sugars, and starchy vegetables. Your body will thank you!

References: 1. Carbohydrates and Midlife Weight Gain. link