Certain Food Combos Prevent Weight Gain, While Others Promote It

Certain Food Combos Prevent Weight Gain, While Others Promote It
Certain Food Combos Prevent Weight Gain, While Others Promote It

New research published online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition further adds to the evidence that counting calories may not be the most effective strategy for long-term weight management. Researchers at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University found that making small, consistent changes to the types of protein- and carbohydrate-rich foods a person eats can have a big impact on long-term weight gain.

Data from three long-term studies, which included more than 16 years of follow-up among 120,000 men and women, showed that diets with a high glycemic load (diets that include refined grains, starches, and sugars) were associated with more weight gain. But would reducing low-quality carbohydrates and increasing protein-rich foods in one's diet lead to more efficient weight loss?

To answer this question, researchers first looked at the relationship between changes in protein foods and weight gain during every four-years of follow-up. What they found was that certain protein-rich foods were linked to weight loss while others to weight gain. Increasing intake of red meat and processed meat was most strongly associated with weight gain. Increasing intake of skinless chicken, seafood, nuts, and yogurt was most strongly associated with weight loss; the more people ate, the less they gained. Consuming full-fat cheese, whole milk, and low-fat milk did not significantly relate to either weight gain or weight loss. Further, researchers noted that people who consumed low-fat dairy products were more likely to increase carbohydrate consumption, which may promote weight gain.


Based on these findings, the authors observed several synergistic relationships between protein-rich foods and changes in the glycemic load of the diet:

  • Increasing consumption of protein-rich foods linked to weight gain (ie, red meat) at the same time as increasing glycemic load (ie, white bread) was strongly associated with weight gain
  • Reducing glycemic load (ie, substituting vegetables for white bread) while consuming protein-rich foods like red meat mitigated some of the weight gain
  • Decreasing glycemic load enhanced the weight loss effects of fish, nuts, and other foods associated with weight loss
  • While eggs and cheese were not linked to weight gain, increasing the servings of these foods in combination with foods linked to increased glycemic load promoted weight gain. However, when combined with reduced glycemic load, increasing servings of eggs and cheese actually helped with weight loss.

The authors conclude that while certain foods may help prevent weight gain, while others may promote it, it is the combination of foods that has the greatest impact on long-term weight management. Protein-rich foods such as fish, nuts, and yogurt can help promote weight loss, however in order to maximize the benefits of these foods and create new benefits with foods such as eggs and cheese, patients should avoid refined grains, starches, and sugars. 

For more information visit Tufts.edu.