Study says low-carb diet offers better weight loss than low-fat optionPosted: Sep 15 in Nutrition by Dr. Lazarus
Confused by the low-fat versus low-carb diet debate? Didn’t know there was such a debate? If you fall into either of these camps don’t worry, you’re not alone. For many years the debate has raged whether people wishing to lose weight and improve their health should limit carbohydrates or limit fats in their diet.
Of course the problem with these diets is not so much what you are limiting, it’s what you are replacing the limited food with. A low carbohydrate diet means consuming more protein sources which means more fat in your diet while a low-fat diet should mean more starchy vegetables and grains but often just means more sugar. The source of debate is which causes the most health problems, the increased fat or the increased carbohydrate.
A recent study financed by the National Institutes of Health doesn’t do much to settle the debate but it does help to clarify a few misconceptions many of us hold about low-fat and low-carbohydrate diets.
The study followed a diverse group of 150 men and women for a year, during which time half followed a low-fat diet and half followed a diet low in carbs. Those in the low-carb group were instructed to include foods with primarily unsaturated fats, such as nuts, oily fish and olive oil, and they were also allowed to eat foods with saturated fats, including butter and red meat. The amount of calories consumed was not limited.
At the end of the study, those in the low-carb group lost an average of eight pounds more per person than those in the low-fat group. What’s more, they lost substantially more body fat than their low-fat counterparts, and they had greater improvements in lean muscle mass, even without changing their pre-study levels of activity. Their levels of HDL, the so-called good cholesterol, also improved. And although the low-fat group did lose weight, it appeared they lost more lean muscle than fat.
What then are the conclusions from a study of this kind? It appears to confirm the theory that fat is not the main culprit behind many of our current health and weight issues as we may have been led to believe. Because low fat diets often mean high sugar (take a look at fat free chocolate milk) the health benefits of reducing fat are negated by the addition of carbohydrates. Foods high in refined carbohydrates are increasingly identified as contributing to rising rates of metabolic syndrome and obesity.
While the argument is not settled over low-carb or low-fat being better for you in the long run, it is safe to conclude that limiting processed or refined carbohydrates and modifying fat intake to reduce saturated and trans fats is the best health advice we can follow today.