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Carbohydrate intake and obesity

Abstract

The prevalence of obesity has increased rapidly worldwide and the importance of considering the role of diet in the prevention and treatment of obesity is widely acknowledged. This paper reviews data on the effects of dietary carbohydrates on body fatness. Does the composition of the diet as related to carbohydrates affect the likelihood of passive over-consumption and long-term weight change? In addition, methodological limitations of both observational and experimental studies of dietary composition and body weight are discussed. Carbohydrates are among the macronutrients that provide energy and can thus contribute to excess energy intake and subsequent weight gain. There is no clear evidence that altering the proportion of total carbohydrate in the diet is an important determinant of energy intake. However, there is evidence that sugar-sweetened beverages do not induce satiety to the same extent as solid forms of carbohydrate, and that increases in sugar-sweetened soft drink consumption are associated with weight gain. Findings from studies on the effect of the dietary glycemic index on body weight have not been consistent. Dietary fiber is associated with a lesser degree of weight gain in observational studies. Although it is difficult to establish with certainty that fiber rather than other dietary attributes are responsible, whole-grain cereals, vegetables, legumes and fruits seem to be the most appropriate sources of dietary carbohydrate.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Dr Ahmad R Dorosty, Dr Cara Ebbeling, Professor Philip James, Professor Simin Liu, Professor Jim Mann, Professor Boyd Swinburn, Professor Carolyn Summerbell and Dr Ricardo Uauy for their valuable comments on the earlier manuscript.

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Correspondence to R M van Dam.

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Conflict of interest

During preparation and peer-review of this paper in 2006, the authors and peer-reviewers declared the following interests.

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Dr Rob M van Dam: None declared.

Professor Jaap C Seidell: None declared.

Peer-reviewers

Dr Ahmad R Dorosty: None declared.

Dr Cara Ebbeling: None declared.

Professor Philip James: None declared.

Professor Simin Liu: None declared.

Professor Jim Mann: None declared.

Professor Boyd Swinburn: None declared.

Professor Carolyn Summerbell: None declared.

Dr Ricardo Uauy: Scientific Adviser on a temporary basis for Unilever and Wyeth; Scientific Editorial/Award Adviser for Danone, DSM, Kelloggs, and Knowles and Bolton on an ad hoc basis.

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van Dam, R., Seidell, J. Carbohydrate intake and obesity. Eur J Clin Nutr 61 (Suppl 1), S75–S99 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602939

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Keywords

  • obesity
  • diet
  • carbohydrate
  • fiber
  • sugar
  • glycemic index

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