Q: Is it true that high-protein diets are better that high-carbohydrate diets for your health, weight, and athletic performance?
A: While the latest fad in diet books is slamming carbohydrates in praise of protein, there is no scientific evidence to support these claims. The proof of any theory lies in the weight of the scientific evidence. When it comes to claims that pasta is fattening or that the right mix of protein and fat alters metabolism in favor of athletic performance, the evidence is sorely lacking. When people lose weight on high-protein or low-carbohydrate fad diets, it’s because they’ve cut calories. Most carb-bashing fad diets supply about 1,200 calories or less a day; you’d lose weight on any diet when you eat so few calories. Actually, there is nothing new about these high-protein diets. They cycle around about every 20 years, and leave people no lighter in the long-run, but at higher risk for developing kidney stones and osteoporosis. In contrast, there are 1,000s of scientific studies spanning decades of research showing that diets rich in carbohydrate foods – from fruits and vegetables to whole grains and legumes – lower your risk for chronic diseases, are the best way to attain and maintain a desirable weight, maximize athletic performance, and help you live longer and healthier. Unless future studies uncover some hidden dark side to carbohydrates (something close to a miracle), these foods will remain some of the best foods in the diet, as long as they are minimally-processed and accompanied by low-fat choices. -Elizabeth Somer