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Women who eat a high-fat, high-sugar “empty calorie” diet are likely to become overweight in later years, says a new study.

On the other hand, yo-yo dieters who cut fat out of their diet or drastically reduce their fat intake may not necessarily be protecting themselves from becoming overweight either, the study findings suggest.

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Overall, 214 (29%) of the women became overweight by the end of the 12-year study period, the investigators report in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Women categorized as “empty calorie” eaters – i.e. “junk food junkies,” were 40% more likely to be overweight than those who ate a “heart healthy” diet, consisting of more fruits and vegetables, low-fat milk, and other low-fat and high-fiber foods.

Empty calorie eaters were also more likely to be smokers – who were 20% more likely to be overweight at follow-up – and to be younger than women with other dietary habits, study findings indicate.

Yet, the “light eaters,” or chronic dieters, tended to have fluctuating weights, as might be expected, and had a slightly higher risk of being overweight, the authors note.

These women tend to cut back on their calories, but not necessarily in the most wise way. They did not replace the foods and nutrients they cut out of their diet and so lacked dietary balance and variety.

Altogether, the findings show that consumers should indeed heed the advice of nutritionists – to eat a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and to exercise, an activity all of the women studied could have used more of.

Previous study findings have shown that nearly one quarter of all US adults are obese and more than half are overweight.

SOURCE: Journal of the American Dietetic Association

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