Do carbohydrates cause weight gain?

Erin Palinski
Nutrition & Dietetics
Carbohydrates are found in breads and grains as well as fruit, vegetables, and milk products. When we eat carbohydrates, the body stores them in the muscles and liver, which then converts them into glucose to fuel the brain. The common belief is that carbohydrates make people overweight. Carbohydrates do make people gain weight, but then again, so do protein and fat if consumed in excess. It's all about the calories.
Marisa Moore
Nutrition & Dietetics
No. The simple act of eating carbohydrates will not cause weight gain. However, eating too much carbohydrate (or fat or protein) can lead to weight gain. Carbohydrates include all bread, pasta, rice, fruits, vegetables (especially starchy ones), milk and sweets. Can you imagine cutting all of these from your diet? I can’t.

Carbohydrates are essential for good health and are the body's preferred source of energy. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that you get 45-65% of your calories from carbohydrates. The key to managing your weight is to practice balance. Instead of downing big plate of pasta or rice, a pint of ice cream or bag of chips, choose healthy carbs like whole grains, beans and fruit and practice portion control at every meal. Get more information on serving sizes by visiting
Jessica Crandall
Nutrition & Dietetics
Sugar intake can lead to weight gain if not properly balanced. All carbohydrates are broken down into “sugar” in the body. Carbohydrates are our bodies preferred fuel source. When we consume more carbohydrates (sugar, bread, cereals, rice, pasta, potatoes, peas, corn, dairy, beans etc.) than our needs we store some in our liver and we convert the rest and store as body fat! Remember to consume ½ your plate fruits and vegetables, ¼ plate lean proteins and ¼ plate whole grains.
Marjorie Nolan Cohn
Nutrition & Dietetics

No. Carbohydrates are a macronutrient, so is protein and fat. You find carbohydrates in bread, cereal, starches, potatoes, fruit, some dairy products, and even vegetables. If eating carbohydrates caused weight gain everyone in the world would be overweight. Weight gain is a result of eating too many carbohydrates (along with fat and protein). The major culprits of weight gain that are carbohydrates are highly processed foods loaded with fat and sugar, such as desserts and baked goods, to name a few. There are healthy forms of carbohydrates that can help lose weight, such as starchy vegetables, whole grains, lentils, and beans.

Judy Caplan
Nutrition & Dietetics
If you eat too many carbs and do not exercise to burn off the extra calories, carbohydrates can cause weight gain. For weight loss, limit carb intake to approximately four servings a day. Make at least half whole grain.
Angela Lemond
Nutrition & Dietetics
One gram of carbohydrate provides your body with 4 calories. Eating more calories than what your body needs of any macronutrient -- carbohydrates, protein or fat -- will cause you to gain weight. In order to maintain a healthy body weight, regular exercise is recommended. And carbohydrates are the preferred source of energy used during physical activity.

Be wise when choosing all foods. And in particular, consume high quality carbohydrates such as those contained in plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans and grains. Also make room for the carbohydrates contained in dairy, as they bring a good amount of nutrients to your diet. Combine those foods with appropriately portioned extra lean protein foods and healthy fats. Minimize your intake of high carbohydrate foods that provide little to no nutrition like high sugar or highly refined grains, breads, cereals and baked goods. Following these recommendations will help balance your diet and help in maintaining a healthy body weight.
Pierre Dukan
Nutrition & Dietetics
High-carbohydrate foods that sabotage diets include:
  • White sugar and all its derivatives, such as candy and other sweets, as they are pure carbohydrates and absorbed very quickly. 
  • Starchy foods, even if they do not taste sweet, are just as rich in carbohydrates. They include flour products (bread, in particular white bread, crackers, cookies, cereals, and the like), pasta, potatoes, peas, legumes, lentils, and beans. 
  • The fruits containing the most carbohydrates are bananas, cherries, and grapes. 
  • Wine and all alcohol, including beer, spirits, or any food or drink containing alcohol. 
  • Pastries are a delicious combination of flour and sugar, and, even worse, of fat. 
Carbohydrates contain only 4 calories per gram but are usually eaten in such large quantity that the calories soon mount up. Carbohydrate calories are also totally assimilated, which increases their energy yield. Furthermore, we digest starch and flour products slowly, producing fermentation and gas, which causes bloating as unpleasant as it is unattractive. Carbohydrates being so energy-rich and easily available, and having such a pleasant taste they are often used as comfort foods. And, as for sweet foods, some people snack on them compulsively. Our affinity for sweet tastes is in part innate, but most psychologists agree that lengthy conditioning starting in childhood makes sweet flavors gratifying, as they are associated with rewards.

Finally, carbohydrates are almost always the cheapest foods available, which is why they are served at everyone’s table, from the richest to the poorest. As far as the body’s metabolism is concerned, carbohydrates help the secretion of insulin, which in turn encourages fat to be produced and stored.
Chelsea Dierkes
Nutrition & Dietetics
Carbohydrates alone do not cause weight gain. Weight gain occurs when you consume more energy than what your body needs.
Cindy Gay
Nutrition & Dietetics
Weight gain is caused by an excess of calories to energy expenditure. Weight gain can be due to too many calories from any food in excess of energy expended through excercise.

Some carbohydrates called "complex" contain fiber and other healthy componenets that help one feel fuller longer.  For your health, make 1/2 your grains whole grain. Choose whole fruits and vegetables. Dried beans contain many beneficial ingredients. Control servings. One serving is 1/2 cup.

Limit foods and beverages with added sugars and refined grains that have solid fats, sugar and sodium.
Robert DeVito
Like the rest of the professionals here said -- the simple answer is NO. Carbohydrates do not cause weight gain. A different take on the subject is that they are A cause of weight gain. They are part of a cumulative problem. For many people, their carbohydrate choices are an issue. So, if you switched from poor food choices (sugar, candy, soda, sweetened beverages, "white" flours etc...) and began eating fibrous, better food choices (potatoes, brown rice, vegetables, fruit) you would have a significant reduction in any type of weight gain due to the more complex nature of these foods. They would increase the thermic-effect. This means that the body has got to work harder to prepare these foods into a usable form, thereby increasing energy expenditure. Also, switching to this eating style would minimize cravings for many people, which if indulged in could lead to weight gain. So, minimizing cravings by eating better, more nutritionally dense and complex foods would satisfy you longer, leading to fewer total calories consumed.

One other strong tip is to eat balanced meals. Avoid eating carbohydrate foods in isolation. Add a bit of protein and/or fat, as this will lengthen the digestion process and further stabilize energy levels and blood sugar.

Summary: Carbohydrates do not CAUSE weight gain. Poor food choices, giving into cravings, not feeding your body nourishing foods, low activity and stress with a lack of slep cause weight gain.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.