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Role of dietary carbohydrate and frequent eating in body-weight control

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 February 2007

T. R. Kirk
Centre for Nutrition and Food Research, Queen Margaret University College, Edinburgh EH12 8TS, UK
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Despite widespread interest in body-weight control, the prevalence of obesity continues to rise worldwide. Current public health advice for obesity prevention is clearly failing. The present paper examines the appropriateness of current public health advice for body-weight control, i.e. to reduce consumption of fatty foods, to reduce consumption of sugar and to avoid snacking between meals. An increase in carbohydrate : fat ratio should improve body-weight control, as high-carbohydrate low-fat diets are less likely to lead to overeating, and if overeating does occur, less of the excess energy is likely to be stored as fat. However, it is suggested that for the long-term prevention of weight gain, advice to increase consumption of carbohydrate-rich foods may be more effective than advice which focuses on reducing consumption of fatty food. Moreover, in view of the inverse relationship between fat and sugar intakes, sugar may have a positive role to play in body-weight control in facilitating an increase in carbohydrate : fat ratio. Snacking for most individuals appears not to adversely affect body-weight control, and for some it may improve control. This situation may exist because frequent eating helps appetite control, thus preventing overeating at meals, and as snacks overall tend to be higher in carbohydrate and lower in fat than meals, frequent eating may be a strategy for increasing carbohydrate : fat ratio. It is also suggested that eating ‘little and often’ may be a more compatible pattern of eating for a physically-active lifestyle than eating large meals. Perhaps the most appropriate advice on food intake that would work synergistically with concurrent advice to increase physical activity is to eat more carbohydrate, and to eat frequently.

2nd Plenary Session on ‘Body-weight balance and regulation’
Copyright © The Nutrition Society 2000


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