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‘Eat this carb and you won’t gain weight’–TIME story leaves readers hungry


3 Star


Eat This Carb and You Won’t Gain Weight

Our Review Summary

iStock_000071834271_SmallThe story describes a single small study of 70 women followed for three hours after a meal containing “resistant starch” and whey protein. We aren’t given any numbers, but the story says that women who received resistant starches and whey protein burned more calories than women fed pancakes without that combination, potentially pointing the way toward future nutrition guidelines or at least more studies.

The story was a light meal of information that left readers hungry for numbers. But more concerning was the misleading headline, which was not supported by the story or the study under discussion (see “Quality of Evidence” below).


Why This Matters

Obesity is a global public health problem, and research that clarifies the best foods for maintaining a healthy weight would be beneficial to countless people.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Applicable

The story is dealing with low-cost, widely available foods, so we’ll rate this N/A.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not use quantified benefits. One opportunity where that could have been added is in this section:

“Arciero and his team monitored the women after each meal for three hours and used a device to see how many calories they burned, and what type. To Arciero’s surprise, after women ate pancakes containing resistant starch plus protein, they experienced an increase in fat burning, compared to all of the other kinds of pancakes.”

Adding numbers for the calories burned or the “increase” in fat burning would be beneficial. Minus these numbers, we can’t assess the credibility of the conclusions.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Applicable

We’re rating this N/A since it’s about food choices. However, it is possible that the belief that a food contains resistant starch could paradoxically lead to that food’s overconsumption.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

There are two studies referenced, with a link given, but we are only told about one. This small study was done on 70 women who were followed for three hours after a specific meal.

But more details were needed: Was the increase in calorie burning statistically significant or just a trend? Was it enough to expect to see a meaningful impact upon weight even if generously extrapolated? What are the limitations of this kind of research?

Meanwhile, the headline makes a bold assertion: “Eat this carb and you won’t gain weight.” The study mentioned in the story didn’t reach that conclusion. Meaning, there is no evidence backing up that claim, creating a presumptive and misleading headline.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


There was no disease mongering.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Not Satisfactory

There don’t appear to be any conflicts of interest. However, the story does not quote any independent sources, only one of the study authors.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?


The story mentions different types of carbs and lists a variety of foods that contain resistant starches.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Applicable

All of these foods are widely available.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


The story makes it clear that these types of starches are being studied in a variety of ways.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?


The story does not appear to rely on a news release.

Total Score: 4 of 7 Satisfactory

Comments (1)

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Janet Camp

May 16, 2016 at 6:58 am

It isn’t the foods, per se, that are causing obesity, but the AMOUNTS of those foods and the frequency of eating. This misunderstanding and the idea that there is some magical food combination/ingredient/nutrient that will allow you to eat as much as you want or as frequently as you want is the problem. Portion size is now at a ridiculous level. Our serving dishes reflect this. I use old mid-century dishes and it really helps me keep portions under control. I find I can buy what is now considered a “prep bowl” and use it for some of my “sides”.