Calories and how they relate to weight loss is a generally simple concept. After all, if you burn more calories than you consume, you’ll inevitably shed pounds. But while people generally associate burning calories with hours logged in at the gym, that’s not the only effective option. It turns out that your diet plays a big role in the number of calories burned each day, and some diets may actually be better for burning calories than others.
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According to a new study—published in BMJ—low-carb diets may help people burn more calories and keep weight off for longer than other diets. In a trial of 164 overweight individuals between 18 and 65, participants first experienced a weight-loss regimen to lose about 10 percent of their body weight. Then, researchers split the participants into three groups of high-, moderate- or low-carb dieters, tracking the participants’ weight, insulin secretion, metabolic hormones and the number of calories they burned over a 20-week time period while they followed their specific diet. Specific meals were supplied to participants to ensure their calorie and carb intake were exact and their level of physical activity was monitored.
Surprisingly, researchers found that those with low-carb diets burned many more calories than the high-carb group did. In fact, they burned an average of 250 kilocalories more (more specifically, they burned about 209 to 278 calories more per day). As LiveScience pointed out, this calorie burn would add up to about a 20-pound weight loss over three years if continued consistently.
“Our observations challenge the belief that all calories are the same to the body,” says co-author of the study, Cara Ebbeling to NewsWeek. “Our study did not measure hunger and satiety, but other studies suggest that low-carb diets also decrease hunger, which could help with weight loss in the long term.”
While there were certainly a few limitations to the study (it wasn’t carried out in a clinical setting, etc.), this is still a major discovery for those looking to do everything they can to lose weight. More research needs to be done to examine the effectiveness of low-carb diets on weight loss, but this is certainly a good start.