Skip to content

Surprising Side Effects Carbs Have On Your Waistline, Says Science

The much-maligned food group may not be as bad for your waistline as you think.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

With low-carb and ketogenic diets gaining popularity recently, carbs have become the black sheep of the nutritional landscape. However, not all carbs are created equal—there's a big difference between a bowl of quinoa and a cookie, after all—and eating carbs might not have the effect on your waistline you're expecting.

Whether you're looking to lose weight, reduce bloating, or slash your risk of chronic disease, read on to discover the surprising side effects carbs can have on your waistline. (Spoiler alert: there are both good and bad!) And if you want to shed those extra pounds, check out these 15 Underrated Weight Loss Tips That Actually Work.

Eating the right carbs may help you lose weight.

Female leg stepping on floor scales

If you're looking to lose weight, going low-carb isn't always the answer. According to a 16-week clinical trial done under the care of researchers from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, individuals who started a low-fat plant-based diet (and significantly increased their carbohydrate intake) lost more weight than those who stuck to their regular diet including animal proteins, even though neither group intentionally restricted calories.

Sign up for our newsletter to get daily recipes and food news in your inbox!

And they may help reduce dangerous visceral fat.

female doctor checking male patient weight

If you want to get rid of dangerous visceral fat—which can't always be seen, but surrounds internal organs and has been linked to heart disease and diabetes—you don't necessarily have to slash your carb intake. According to the same Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine study, individuals who adopted a high-carb plant-based diet significantly decreased the amount of visceral fat on their bodies, as well.

High-fiber carbs may flatten your stomach by reducing bloating.


That uncomfortably bloated feeling—and visibly protruding abdomen—could be solved with the addition of the right carbohydrates to your meal plan. A 2020 study published in Clinical and Translational Gastroenterology found that individuals who ate a high-carb, high-fiber diet experienced less bloating than those who ate a protein- or unsaturated-fat-rich meal plan. And if you want to boost your fiber intake, check out these 20 Easy Ways to Add Fiber to Your Diet.

But a high-carb diet may lead to more visible belly fat.

Man measuring belly fat calipers

Unfortunately, that doesn't mean a carb-rich diet is always beneficial for your waistline. According to a 2015 study published in the Journal of Nutrition, after a period of weight loss, individuals who stuck to a low-carb diet had 4.4% less fat mass than those who followed a higher-carb, low-fat diet. Want to slim down that stomach in no time? Check out the 40 Worst Habits For Belly Fat.



Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more about Sarah
Filed Under