New study: low-carb diet reduces food cravings and improves eating control
When it comes to losing weight, low carb has a very successful track record. In fact, the majority of high-quality studies have found that low-carb diets outperform low-fat diets for weight loss.
This has mainly been attributed to carb restriction’s impressive effects on appetite suppression and metabolism, including reducing insulin levels so people can easily access their fat stores.
Now a new study has shown that a low-carb diet can also contribute to weight loss by decreasing food cravings and helping people eat less:
Nutrients 2019: Changes in food cravings and eating behavior after a dietary carbohydrate restriction intervention trial
In this study, 19 overweight and obese adults followed a low-carb diet for four weeks. For the first two weeks, they were provided with all food, totaling roughly 1,500 calories, 20-25 grams of net carbs, and 100 grams each of protein and fat per day. For the second two weeks, they ate a similar diet based on the low-carb education they’d received, including guidance in planning and preparing meals.
The study participants turned in detailed food records, had their ketone levels measured to confirm compliance, and remained in close contact with the researchers and their staff throughout the study.
Before and after the low-carb diet, they filled out an extensive questionnaire about their cravings for different types of foods, such as those high in sugar, starch or fat. One category entitled “fast food fats” was made up of foods high in both refined carbs and fat: pizza, french fries, hamburgers and chips. Additionally, all participants completed before-and-after assessments of eating control, including how likely they were to overeat in response to negative emotions.
By the end of the study, the men had lost an average of about 16 pounds (7.2 kg), the women had lost an average of about 10 pounds (4.7 kg), and fasting insulin levels had dropped by an average of 34% in all participants. Additionally, all the men and women stated that they were either extremely satisfied or somewhat satisfied with the low-carb diet.
Although everyone reported reduced cravings for most foods (except fruits and vegetables) while eating low carb, cravings for sweets seemed to decrease much more in women than men. Also, sugar cravings dropped the most in people who initially had the highest cravings for sweets.
Interestingly, those who lost the most weight experienced the least reduction in fat cravings. The study authors said that this might have been because people who preferred high-fat foods were able to eat more of these foods while following low carb, which helped them stick to the diet and lose more weight during the last two weeks.
Finally, participants whose food cravings decreased the most in response to carb restriction were the ones who developed the greatest control over their eating, were least likely to overeat, and reported feeling the least hungry.
Now, this was a small study, and there was no control group following another diet (this was actually a secondary analysis of a low-carb study for arterial stiffness published in 20181).
But it does confirm the results of previous studies in which people noted reduced cravings while eating low carb. And, of course, there are personal testimonies from hundreds of people saying that cutting carbs dramatically reduced their food cravings and helped them feel much more in control of eating, successfully lose weight, and maintain the loss.
Has following a low-carb or keto lifestyle helped you get your food cravings under control and made it easier for you to stick with healthy eating?
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