According to new research, choosing your proteins and carbohydrates carefully can help you avoid long-term weight gain.

I spoke to Sarah Berry from The Age to share my thoughts on this latest research.

According to new research, choosing your proteins and carbohydrates carefully can help you avoid long-term weight gain.

I spoke to Sarah Berry from The Age to share my thoughts on this latest research.

Forget the fad.

Little dietary tweaks can have a big impact long-term, new research has found.

Simply changing the types of protein and carbohydrates you consume can determine your weight in the long run, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The researchers from Tufts University in Massachusetts looked at three long-term studies, conducted over 16 years, following up on the diet and weight of 120,000 US adults.

The first finding was unsurprising.

Those whose diets had a high glycaemic load (GL), heavy with refined grains, starches and sugars, gained more weight.

But, the authors simply used this as a platform to look at the relationship between GL, protein-rich foods and long-term weight.

“There is mounting scientific evidence that diets including less low-quality carbohydrates, such as white breads, potatoes, and sweets, and higher in protein-rich foods may be more efficient for weight loss,” said one of the authors Jessica Smith, Ph.D., a visiting scholar at the Friedman School and a research fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“We wanted to know how that might apply to preventing weight gain in the first place.”

To find this out, Smith and her research team looked at which protein foods affected weight.

Key findings included:

• Increasing intakes of red meat and processed meat were most strongly associated with weight gain.

• Increasing intakes of yoghurt, seafood, skinless chicken, and nuts were most strongly associated with weight loss – the more people ate, the less weight they gained.

• Increasing other dairy products, including full-fat cheese, whole milk, and low-fat milk, did not significantly relate to either weight gain or weight loss.

“The fat content of dairy products did not seem to be important for weight gain,” Smith said. “In fact, when people consumed more low-fat dairy products, they actually increased their consumption of carbs, which may promote weight gain. This suggests that people compensate, over years, for the lower calories in low-fat dairy by increasing their carb intake.”

Separate studies have also shown an inverse association with full fat dairy and obesity risk.

In addition to these results, however, the researchers found a symbiotic relationship between different foods.

Increasing GL alongside proteins linked with weight-gain, like red meat, enhanced the effect of weight-gain .

But decreasing GL load while increasing meat consumption – having steak with vegetables instead of with white bread, for example – allayed the effect, to some extent.

Similarly, the weight-loss effect of increased yoghurt, seafood or nuts consumption was boosted when people reduced their GL but diminished if they increased it.

And while eating eggs and full-fat dairy seemed to have little impact on long-term weight, if people ate more of these foods while eating less high GI foods, they lost weight.

“Our study adds to growing new research that counting calories is not the most effective strategy for long-term weight management and prevention,” said senior author Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., Dr.P.H., dean of the Friedman School. “Some foods help prevent weight gain, others make it worse.

“Most interestingly, the combination of foods seems to make a big difference. Our findings suggest we should not only emphasise specific protein-rich foods like fish, nuts, and yoghurt to prevent weight gain, but also focus on avoiding refined grains, starches, and sugars in order to maximise the benefits of these healthful protein-rich foods, create new benefits for other foods like eggs and cheese, and reduce the weight gain associated with meats.”

Australian accredited practicing dietitian Melanie McGrice agrees.

“This study reinforces that the quality of our diet is just as important as the quantity of our diet for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight,” she says.

“I hope this study encourages people to focus more on eating a nutritious diet than just filling up on nutrient-poor, highly processed ‘diet products’.”