Which weight-loss diet works best, low fat or low carb? That was the question a team of Stanford scientists were striving to answer (Gardner et al, JAMA, Feb. 20, 2018). It has been a bone of contention among dieters and dietitians for decades.
Trying to Match the Best Diet to the Individual:
They recruited more than 600 overweight volunteers to the study, Diet Intervention Examining The Factors Interacting with Treatment Success (DIETFITS). These individuals were randomly assigned to follow either a healthy low-fat or a healthy low-carbohydrate diet for a year. (The “healthy” description is important, as it is pretty easy to follow an unhealthy eating plan, either low in fat or low in carbs.) The researchers looked at the volunteers’ genetic makeup and insulin secretion to see how those might interact with the food pattern.
The Results of the Study:
At the end of one year, people in the low-fat arm had lost more than 11 pounds. Those in the low-carb arm of the study had lost about 13 pounds. This is not a significant difference. There was quite a large range in the amounts of weight lost within each group, though. Some people lost as much as 30 pounds, while others actually gained weight during the year.
The investigators did not find any connection between genetics or insulin secretion and dietary effects on weight loss. Both diets were beneficial for lipid profiles, blood pressure, insulin and blood sugar. The low-carb diet was associated with higher LDL cholesterol. But it was also associated with higher good HDL cholesterol and lower triglyceride levels.
The researchers note that:
“The substantial variability of weight loss response suggests some strategies may work better for some individuals than others, and that no one diet should be recommended universally.”
Dr. Christopher Gardner, the lead researcher, suggests that the individuals who were most successful at losing weight were those who became more mindful about what they ate. You can listen to his interviews with The People’s Pharmacy in Show 991: New Dietary Guidelines for Americans and Show 988: Spices for a Healthy Life.
We discuss how to follow a low-carbohydrate diet in our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies. It also has instructions on a DASH diet, which is a healthful eating plan that is moderately low in fat.