The People's Perspective on Medicine

Show 1126: Can You Find Your Best Diet?

Scientists tested low-carb vs low-fat and tried to find markers that would show which one is best for who. Your best diet is the healthiest one you can follow indefinitely.
Christopher Gardner, PhD
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Can You Find Your Best Diet?

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People get excited about their favorite diets. Maybe you do, too. Are you a low-carb champion or a low-fat fan? Which one really is your best diet?


A big study from the Stanford Prevention Research Center assigned 600 people to either a healthy low-fat diet or a healthy low-carb diet. (No junk food allowed in either one.) People followed their assigned diets for a year and then the scientists compared the amount of weight lost by each group. Average weight loss was astonishingly close. Altogether, people in the study lost a total of 6500 pounds.

That might have been expected, since previous studies have shown a wide range of weight loss results within each type of diet plan and not much difference between them. The DIETFITS study (standing for Diet Intervention Examining The Factors Interacting with Treatment Success) planned to see if they could figure out which is the best diet for specific individuals. They looked at a metabolic marker, insulin secretion, and at a set of three genes that have previously been linked to weight. However, neither of these markers predicted who would do better on a low-fat regime and who would thrive on a low-carb approach.

More Work to Do:

Consequently, scientists have a lot more work to do before they can identify your best diet. But they did discover that emotional and psychological factors are important. People who were very successful at losing weight told the researchers that the study helped them change their relationship to food. Many found that becoming more mindful about their meals made a big difference.

Find out more about the study and what we know about healthy eating.

This Week’s Guest:

Christopher Gardner, PhD, holds the Rehnborg Farquhar endowed chair of medicine at Stanford University and is director of nutrition studies at the Stanford Prevention Research Center. The DIETFITS study he led was published in JAMA on February 20, 2018.

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    About the Author
    Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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    This was a great episode for many reasons. Thanks for this particular guest and topic. BTW, I have loved your show for years.

    I think it was this one. I’m assuming these are his colleagues at Stanford:

    I believe ketogenic is the way to go for the most part. A very small amount of carbs is okay but lots of good fats and healthy vegetables and fiber is ideal.

    Dr Gardner mentioned name of book called The Gut Brain? By some of his colleagues. Can you pass along name and authors?

    Thank you! Great broadcast.

    What a splendid show! I believe the book that Nancy asked you about is called “The Good Gut,” and the authors sounded like a husband-wife team by the name of Sonnenberg. I am not sure I spelled their name correctly, since I was listening, not reading it.

    Dr. Gardner is so pleasant to listen to–he has a lilt in his voice that makes it sound like he is always smiling! I could listen to him read the phone book! Consider bringing him back on the show for a dedicated session on protein: that part of the show was very interesting, but it was a short aside in this show, and it deserves more direct attention. Warm regards from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, julie

    The Good Gut: Taking Control of Your Weight, Your Mood, and Your Long Term Health
    Book by Erica Sonnenburg and Justin Sonnenburg

    I believe it was The Good Gut by Justin and Erica Sonneburg. I just looked it up on Amazon so that’s how I know their names :)

    Nancy, there has been a good bit of research recently on the connection between the intestinal bacteria and the brain. I’m not sure which book, specifically, he may have been referring to. We’ll check.

    Thank you! This was the best episode I’ve ever heard. It was also one of the best, most informative shows I’ve ever heard on any media. The bottom line is so simple, and yet it is very difficult to get the message out. So many people believe there’s just one more pill they need to take.

    Very enlightening carb verses fat relation. How would it be possible to get the code for the Vegathon app.

    Thank you

    * Be nice, and don't over share. View comment policy^