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Best diet: One based on healthy carbs

Wednesday - 6/27/2012, 9:38am  ET

oatmeal (Thinkstock)
Oatmeal is one food that is high in fiber and often included in a low-glycemic-index diet. (Thinkstock)

WASHINGTON - Not all calories are equal. A new study suggests that a diet based on healthy carbohydrates provides the best chance of dropping pounds without side effects.

Researchers compared three different diets: healthy carbs, low carbs and low fat. The study, which appears in The Journal of the American Medical Association, found that people on the low-fat diet burned fewer calories. While the low-carb diet -- similar to the Atkins diet -- burned the most calories, it increased a stress hormone and inflammation, possibly raising the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

The healthy-carb diet, or low-glycemic-index diet, burned 150 calories a day more than the low-fat diet, without negative effects on cholesterol levels. The diet is similar to the Mediterranean diet, which includes lots of fresh vegetables and whole grains.

Dr. David Ludwig, one of the study's authors and director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children's Hospital, says the findings suggest the low-glycemic diet overall is the best for people trying to lose weight without side effects that can undermine their health.

"We should avoid severely restricting any major nutrient and focus on the quality of the nutrient, " he said, referring to the limitations of a low-fat diet, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.

A separate study includes a warning about the Atkins diet of low carbs and high protein.

Swedish researchers say people on an extreme "Atkins-style" diet are increasing their risk of potentially fatal heart disease and strokes.

The risk to young women is especially high.

Researchers found an extra four to five cases of cardiovascular disease per 10,000 women per year, for those on such diets, The Mirror reports.

"Don't feel you have to choose between carbohydrates or protein - a bit of both is better for your long term heart health." Victoria Taylor, senior dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, told the Mirror.

WTOP's Mitchell Miller contributed to this story. Follow Mitchell and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)