The Slim Down

Why a carb curfew will only add to your curves…

It's the party season and we all want to look our best but new research claims that a diet that cuts out carbs may not be the best way to try and shed a few pounds.  Here, Yahoo! Lifestyle nutritionist Rachael Anne Hill explains...

Research has found eating carbs in the evening can actually help you lose weight © RexThe 'Carb Curfew' has long been a popular way of trying to lose excess weight.   The idea is to reduce calorie intake and avoid over eating in the evenings by banning carbohydrates after 5pm.

It also encourages followers to eat slightly more protein which, in theory, should help you to stay fuller for longer.  The diet promotes a carb-rich breakfast and lunch followed by a carb free evening meal.

[Related: Top healthy Christmas superfoods]

In practical terms this means no jacket potato with your chilli, no pasta with your Bolognese and no rice with your curries.

The diet has proved to be very popular largely because it's easy to understand and simple to do.  Followers of the diet often report feeling less bloated and more energised.

However, new research from the Institute of Biochemistry, Food Science and Nutrition at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem suggests that if we really want to shift the pounds we should in fact be doing the exact opposite.

Cutting out carbs means no pasta with that bolognaise sauce © RexResearcher Sigal Sofer randomly assigned 78 police officers to either an experimental diet of 'carbohydrates at dinner' or a control weight loss diet which consisted of carbohydrates eaten throughout the day.

The study examined the experimental diet's effect on the secretion of the following three hormones…
a)    Leptin, the satiety hormone, whose level in the blood is usually low during the day and high during the night.
b)    Ghrelin,  the hunger hormone, whose level in the blood is usually high during the day and low during the night

And
c)    Adiponectin, which is considered to be closely associated with metabolic syndrome, a name for a group of risk factors that occur together and increase the risk for coronary artery disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
The researchers found that the experimental diet caused Leptin, the hormone that helps us to feel full to increase during the day and the hunger hormone ghrelin to be suppressed, peaking instead in the evening.

At the same time the subjects reported feeling less hungry during the day and were found to have lower body fat and better biochemical (blood sugar and blood lipid profiles) than the control group which decreased their risk of developing metabolic syndrome.

The idea for the research came about from studies carried out on Muslims during Ramadan which found that when they fast during the day and eat high-carbohydrate meals in the evening there was a favourable change in the amount of leptin (the satiety hormone) that their bodies produced.

Our nutritionist advises stocking up on wholegrain carbs © RexThe findings from this study, published in Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases suggest there may well be a considerable advantage to actually doing the reverse of the popular carb curfew, eating fewer carbs during the day and more after 5pm, especially for people at risk of developing diabetes or cardiovascular disease due to obesity.

However, the key is to keep a close eye on portion control and avoid piling on the pasta or mounding up your mash.

[Related: Low calorie or low carb diets?]

One serving of carb-based foods is equal to just a slice of bread or 1 cupped handful of cooked pasta or rice.  Larger servings than this can send blood sugars soaring which increases insulin production, the hormone responsible for encouraging your body to store excess calories as fat.

Finally, make sure you switch to eating high fibre, wholegrain carbohydrates too instead of overly refined breads, cereals and pastas which contain fewer nutrients but just as many calories.