Probing Question: Is kicking carbs a good way to lose weight?

The key to any dieting plan is maintenance, according to Penn State professor of nutrition Barbara Rolls. If you lose weight at a slow and steady pace, Rolls says, you are more likely to keep it off.

bread and potatoes on a plate
Emily Wiley

Got starch?

So how do low-carb diets, the latest craze on the American weight-loss scene, stack up with regard to maintenance? Not very well. Rolls believes that dieters who follow a strict low-carb diet may lose weight fast but also miss forbidden fruits and grains so much that they will tend to overindulge if and when these foods are added back into the daily diet.

Penny Kris-Etherton, distinguished professor of nutrition at Penn State, agrees with Rolls. "Extreme diets, like many low-carb plans, are difficult to maintain," Kris-Etherton says. "You can't cut out an entire food group and expect to maintain weight loss."

Both Rolls and Kris-Etherton suggest cutting calories as a more successful strategy for long-term dieting. They say extreme low-carb diets do not promote healthy and sustainable behavioral changes.

"Can you imagine life without bread, pasta, and potatoes?" Rolls asks. "People need to come to terms with our environment and the foods that surround us. That is the essential psychological factor of dieting."

Barbara Rolls, Ph.D., is professor of nutritional sciences and Helen A. Guthrie Chair of the Nutrition Department in the College of Health and Human Development; bjr4@psu.edu. Penny Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., is distinguished professor of nutritional sciences; pmk3@psu.edu.

Last Updated January 19, 2005