Thinnest People Eat a Lot of This Food

A four-nation study of more than 4,000 men and women ages 40 to 59 has produced a stunning conclusion in our Atkins diet-fueled society: The thinnest people on Earth eat the most carbohydrates. Even more alarming, the people who eat the most protein are actually the heaviest.

"Without exception, a high-complex-carbohydrate, high-vegetable-protein diet is associated with low body mass," study leader Linda Van Horn of Northwestern University said in a news conference reported by Reuters. "High-protein diets were associated with higher body weight."

Before you reach for the nearest doughnut, realize that the carbs that do a body good aren't from french fries and white bread that contain lots of sugar. They are complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

In the Northwestern study, more than 4,000 people from the United States, Great Britain, Japan, and China wrote in a food diary everything they had eaten during two 24-hour periods. "Lo and behold, what we did find is that without exception, a high complex-carbohydrate, high-fiber, high vegetable-protein diet was associated with low body mass index Van Horn explained. A low body mass index or BMI is a standard measure of healthy weight.

But also notable is this finding: The more animal protein that was consumed, the higher the person's weight. And the greater risk to his or her health. "I think any diet that recommends increasing the amount of saturated fat poses a risk," said Randal J. Thomas of the Mayo Clinic. "There may be good things about the diet...but any diet that recommends increases in saturated fat could be increasing the risk in the population."