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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Are High Carbohydrate Diets Energy-Restrictive? How Nutritious Are They?

Authors
item Bowman, Shanthy
item Spence, Joseph

Submitted to: Journal of American College of Nutrition
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: March 24, 2002
Publication Date: June 3, 2002

Interpretive Summary: The prevalence of obesity continues to rise among adults. About 55 percent of adults in the U.S. are either overweight (body mass index from 25 to 30 kg/m2) or obese (body mass index 30 kg/m2 or higher). Health professionals, policy makers, food industry, and the public alike devote considerable amounts of time and money toward reducing this obesity epidemic. Dietary intake is among one of the major determinants of body weight. Energy intakes at levels that result in a positive energy balance contribute toward weight gain. Low-fat diets are generally energy restrictive and may reduce the risk of obesity, while high-fat diets increase this risk. Diets providing between 20 and 30 percent of total energy from fat and 55 to 60 percent energy from complex carbohydrate (high carbohydrate diets) are considered as balanced diets and are recommended by the Dietary Guidelines and the American Heart Association. Our study examined the dietary intakes of a representative sample of U.S. adults and found that adults who consumed high carbohydrate diets also had energy-restrictive, yet nutritious diets. These adults were more likely to meet the dietary guideline recommendations for both fat (no more than 30 percent total energy from total fat) and saturated fat (less than 10 percent total energy from saturated fat) and have body mass index values below 25. This information is useful to dietitians, healthcare professionals, and the public who follow different diet regimens that are available through books and other sources of information.

Technical Abstract: USDA's 1994 to 1996 Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals (CSFII) data set was used for the study. Adults ages 19 years and older with complete food intake records on the first day of the survey were included in the analysis. The sample included 10,014 adults. The sample was divided into four groups based on the percent total energy from carbohydrate: very low carbohydrate group, 30 percent or less; low carbohydrate group, more than 30 percent to 45 percent; moderate carbohydrate group, more than 45 percent to 55 percent; and high carbohydrate group, more than 55 percent. There were 420, 2793, 3415, and 3386 adults in the very low to high carbohydrate groups respectively. SUDAAN software (release 7.5.6, 2000, Research Triangle Institute, Research Triangle Park, NC) was used for the estimation of means, standard errors of the means, and for the pair-wise comparisons between the groups. Survey day-one full sample weights were used in the data analysis to represent th population studied. The diets of the four groups were examined for their macronutrient and micronutrient composition, and food and beverage intakes. The mean body mass index and the percentages of adults within the normal, overweight and obese categories were compared for statistical significance. This study showed that the adults who derived more than 55 percent of total dietary energy from carbohydrate had an energy-restrictive, yet nutritious diet. Adults in this high carbohydrate group are more likely to meet the dietary guideline recommendations for both fat (no more than 30 percent energy from total fat) and saturated fat (less than 10 percent energy from saturated fat) and have body mass index values below 25.

Last Modified: 10/21/2014