The increased prevalence of overweight and obesity in the United States since approximately 1980 is temporally associated with an increase in carbohydrate intake, with no appreciable change in absolute intake of fat. Despite speculation that both carbohydrate quantity and quality have contributed significantly to excess weight gain, the relationship between carbohydrate intake and body mass index (BMI) is controversial. A review of relevant literature indicates that most epidemiologic studies show an inverse relationship between carbohydrate intake and BMI, even when controlling for potential confounders. These observational studies are supported by results from a number of dietary intervention studies wherein modest reductions in body weight were observed with an ad libitum, low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet without emphasis on energy restriction or weight loss. With few exceptions, high glycemic load is associated with lower BMI, even when adjusted for total energy intake. Data on the association between glycemic index and BMI are not as consistent, with more studies showing either no association or an inverse relationship, rather than a positive relationship. Whole-grain intake is generally inversely associated with BMI; refined grain intake is not. Because overall dietary quality tends to be higher for high-carbohydrate diets, a low-fat dietary strategy with emphasis on fiber-rich carbohydrates, particularly cereal fiber, may be beneficial for health and weight control.