We’ve been taught that the key to taking off the pounds is to consume fewer calories than we burn. As it turns out, that may not be the case at all.
People who ate plenty of vegetables and whole foods lost significant amounts of weight over the course of the year without restricting the quantity of food that they consumed, according to a new study published in JAMA on Tuesday.
The study, led by Christopher D. Gardner, the director of nutrition studies at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, looked at 600 people who were split into two diet groups. One group ate low-carb food and the other followed a low-fat diet, The New York Times reports.
The original goal of the study was to compare how overweight and obese people handled each diet, but both groups were encouraged to choose better quality food over processed options. At the end of the year, both groups had lost a good deal of weight. The low-carb participants lost an average of 13 pounds, while the low-fat group lost an average of 11.7 pounds. Both groups also saw improvement in other health factors such as blood pressure and body fat.
The study suggests that health professionals should encourage people to avoid processed foods that have refined starches and added sugars such as white bread, bagels, and sugary snacks and instead focus on eating more high-quality food.
Researchers say that it’s not that calories don’t matter. Participants in both groups were eating less by the end of the study, but that calories shouldn’t be the main focus when it comes to weight loss.