Carbohydrates ("carbs") are a point of controversy in some dietary circles, particularly with regard to weight loss. But are all carbs alike?
You know they're not, of course, but now a new study in the Journal of Nutrition has revealed that a diet rich in the kind of carbohydrates that are digested slowly by the body--legumes, whole grains, beans, and other high-fiber foods--can significantly reduce inflammation in the body.
Reducing inflammation is a good thing, since people who have chronic inflammatory disease have a higher risk for many forms of cancer, as well as for cardiovascular disease.
The level of inflammation in a body can be gauged by measuring blood levels of something called C-reactive protein (CRP). CRP is often elevated in chronic inflammatory disease, and higher blood levels of it are linked with a higher risk for multiple forms of cancers, as well as cardiovascular disease. Conversely, any foods that can lower blood levels of CRP and other inflammatory markers could significantly decrease a person's risk for a myriad of health issues.
Fast vs. Slow Carbohydrates
The Journal of Nutrition study included 80 healthy men and women. Half the participants were of normal weight, whereas the other half were overweight or obese. Participants were randomly assigned to receive either a diet that included carbs that can be quickly digested by the body (high-glycemic-load carbohydrates), or a diet including slowly digested carbs (slow-glycemic-load carbs, or a slow-carb diet). These 2 diet regimens differed only with respect to their carbohydrates' digestion times; otherwise, the calories, grams of carbohydrates, protein, and fat were the same.
To quantity participants' levels of inflammation, the researchers tested their blood at the beginning and at the end of the study, looking for CRP and a variety of other markers known to be associated with inflammation.
Slow Carbs Lower Inflammation
By measuring blood levels of CRP, the study authors found that a diet high in slowly digested carbs lowered inflammation levels. They also found that such a diet increased levels of adiponectin, a weight-friendly hormone believed to help regulate the metabolism of sugar and fat.
By the end of the study, the overweight or obese individuals who had eaten the slow-carb diet had seen their CRP levels drop by an average of 22 percent. This is a very significant finding since it suggests that such a diet can help reduce inflammation. The authors suggested that millions of individuals who are overweight or obese might improve their health by following a diet of slow carbs and other low-glycemic-index foods.
Among those study subjects who had high body-fat mass, the researchers found that those who consumed the low-glycemic-load diet significantly decreased their levels of C-reactive protein and slightly increased their adiponectin levels (by about 5 percent). In sum, the authors remarked that "not all carbohydrates are created equal."