Weight-Loss Maintenance Winner: The glycemic index (we’ll explain…)

By Susan Learner Barr, M.S., R.D.

Many people with type 1 diabetes (T1D) maintain a healthy weight and do not have to think about losing a pound. However, some individuals with T1D, and the majority of the adult population in the United States, do have to be mindful of the number on the scale. And for those who have worked hard at losing weight, it is often a bigger challenge to keep it off.

Weight-loss maintenance is just plain difficult. So much so that only one in six overweight or obese adults who have lost 10 percent of their body weight report being able to maintain the loss for one year. Weight-loss maintenance was the topic of a study published on June 27 in The Journal of the American Medical Association(JAMA). Here’s the good news: If you have been keeping up with your Countdown reading, you are ahead of the game!

Why? According to the new study, “Effects of Dietary Composition on Energy Expenditure during Weight-Loss Maintenance,” following a diet with a low glycemic index or “glycemic load” may just be the healthiest option to choose to avoid weight regain. Led by researchers at the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Children’s Hospital Boston, the study investigated the effects of three different diets in overweight and obese young adults. After the participants achieved a weight loss of 10 to 15 percent, they received one of three diets: low fat, low glycemic index, or very low carbohydrate (Atkins-type eating plan).

After four weeks on the different diets, the study participants were evaluated for resting and total energy expenditure, certain risk factors for heart disease, and other health indices. Although the very low-carbohydrate diet produced the most-beneficial effects on energy expenditure, it also produced unhealthy effects on cortisol (a steroid hormone that stimulates the formation of glucose in the body) and C-reactive protein, which is a risk factor for heart disease. The researchers concluded that a strategy to reduce glycemic load may be advantageous for weight-loss maintenance and heart disease prevention.

Bottom line: choosing foods that have a lower glycemic index may be a smart choice for healthy weight-loss maintenance. For people with T1D, the same approach can offer a useful strategy to help with managing blood-glucose levels. Learn more about the glycemic index here.