High-quality carbohydrates may help control weight in middle age

October 12, 2023 — People who eat a diet rich in high quality carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruit, and non-starchy vegetables may gain less weight in middle age than those whose diets contain more sugar and starchy vegetables such as potatoes, according to a recent study led by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study, published September 23, 2023, in the BMJ, looked at weight change in 136,432 men and women aged 65 years or younger over a period of up to 24 years.

Participants gained an average of more than three pounds every four years, but the researchers found that the quality of carbohydrates that participants ate made a difference for weight control. For example, adding 3.5 ounces of low-quality carbohydrates such as sugar or starch daily was linked to an extra two or three pounds over a four-year period, while adding one-third of an ounce of fiber every day contributed to 1.7 fewer pounds gained over four years. The associations were particularly strong for women and people with excess body weight.

“One of the interesting things in our study was that we found that the starch was actually a bigger problem overall than sugar itself,” Walter Willett, study co-author and professor of epidemiology and nutrition, said in a September 28 TODAY.com article. “Clearly, too much sugar is not a good thing either, but huge amounts of refined starch are even a bigger problem when it comes to weight control.”

Read the Today.com article: How to stop midlife weight gain with a simple food swap

Read HealthDay coverage: Beating ‘Middle-Age Spread’:  Carbs You Should and Shouldn’t Eat