- US researchers looked at the diets of 136,432 people for roughly 24 years
- Those who ate the most non-starchy vegetables gained an average of 6.6lbs less
Eating the wrong type of vegetables may make you pile on the pounds in middle age, new research suggests.
People who eat more portions of peas, sweetcorn and potatoes are more likely to gain weight than those munching on non-starchy veg such as broccoli, carrots and spinach.
Meanwhile, switching to high fibre – such as wholegrains and fruits including apples and pears – can also reduce the effects of middle-age spread, they found.
Researchers from Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health looked at the diets of 136,432 men and women aged 65 years or younger between 1986-2014, over an average time of 24 years.
Participants completed questionnaires on personal characteristics, medical history, lifestyle, and other health related factors at the start of the study, and every 2-4 years thereafter.
People who eat more portions of peas, sweetcorn and potatoes are more likely to gain weight than those munching on non-starchy veg such as broccoli, carrots and spinach. Meanwhile, switching to high fibre – such as wholegrains and fruits including apples and pears – can also reduce the effects of middle-age spread, scientists found
On average, people gained 3.3lbs (1.5kg) every four years, amounting to around 1.5 stone during the next two decades.
They found increases in glycaemic index and glycaemic load – measures of the effects of different foods on blood sugar levels – were strongly linked to weight gain.
For example, a 100g/day increase in starch or added sugar was associated with 3.3lbs and 1.9lbs greater weight gain over four years, respectively.
Those who ate the most non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, and spinach gained an average of 6.6lbs less while those tucking into potatoes and corn could expect to gain 5.7lbs more portion over the same period.
A 10g a day increase in fibre was linked to 1.7lbs lower weight on average, according to the findings published in the BMJ.
The associations were stronger among participants with excessive body weight than those with normal weight. Most of these associations were also stronger among women.
In further analyses, the researchers found that replacing carbohydrates from refined grains, starchy vegetables, and sugar sweetened drinks with equal servings of carbohydrates from whole grains, fruit, and non-starchy vegetables was associated with less weight gain.
The authors note it is an observational study, so cannot establish cause, with limitations, such as reliance on self-reported estimates of both carbohydrate intakes and the weight outcomes.
However, they say their findings ‘highlight the potential importance of carbohydrate quality and source for long term weight management, especially for people with excessive body weight’.
WHAT SHOULD A BALANCED DIET LOOK LIKE?
Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain, according to the NHS
• Eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit and vegetables count
• Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain
• 30 grams of fibre a day: This is the same as eating all of the following: Five portions of fruit and vegetables, two whole-wheat cereal biscuits, two thick slices of wholemeal bread and large baked potato with the skin on
• Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks), choosing lower fat and lower sugar options
• Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including two portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily)
• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consuming in small amounts
• Drink six to eight cups/glasses of water a day
• Adults should have less than 6g of salt and 20g of saturated fat for women or 30g for men a day
Source: NHS Eatwell Guide
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