Study Finds No Need to Fear Carbohydrates Interview with:

Hana Kahleova, MD, PhD, MBA Director of Clinical Research Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine Washington, DC 20016

Dr. Kahleova

Hana Kahleova, MD, PhD, MBA
Director of Clinical Research
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
Washington, DC 20016 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: The effects of carbohydrates on body weight and insulin sensitivity are controversial.

In this 16-week randomized clinical trial, we tested the role of carbohydrate quantity and quality, as part of a plant-based diet, on body weight, body composition, and insulin resistance. We have demonstrated that carbohydrates and dietary fiber play important roles in the regulation of body weight, body composition, and insulin resistance in overweight individuals.

Increased consumption of total carbohydrate was associated with a decrease in BMI and volume of visceral fat, even after adjustment for energy intake. Increased consumption of total and particularly insoluble fiber was associated with a decrease in BMI, fat mass, and volume of visceral fat. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: There’s no need to fear carbs. Fad diets sometimes lead people to believe that carbohydrates are unhealthy, but our study—and previous clinical trials and meta-analyses—show that unprocessed, complex carbohydrates are key to good health. Part of the reason is that carbohydrates from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans also contain fiber, which is an important nutrient that can help us control our weight, lower cholesterol, and even reduce cancer risk. Another reason why carbohydrates may help control weight is that a gram of carbohydrates contains just 4 calories, while a gram of fat contains 9 What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Future studies would be useful to elucidate the specific mechanisms behind the beneficial metabolic effects of carbohydrate quantity and quality to learn exactly how they help lead to weight loss and improve insulin function. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: When we first told our study participants that they could eat as many carbs as they wanted, they thought it was a joke. How could they possibly lose any weight without carbohydrate limits? Many popular diets restrict carbohydrate intake. However, contrary to popular belief, it is important to note that complex carbohydrates found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans are important in weight management and for our metabolic health.


Nutrients 2018, 10(9), 1302;

A Plant-Based High-Carbohydrate, Low-Fat Diet in Overweight Individuals in a 16-Week Randomized Clinical Trial: The Role of Carbohydrates aHana Kahleova 1,* ,Sara Dort , Richard Holubkov  and Neal D. Barnard 


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Last Updated on September 25, 2018 by Marie Benz MD FAAD