low-fat vs. high-fat diets

Runoff pitting low-fat vs. low-carb diets to lose weight results in a tie

Summary:  A new study didn’t find much of a difference between healthy low-carb and low-fat diets. The people on both diets lost about the same amount of excess weight. [This article first appeared on LongevityFacts. Author: Brady Hartman. ]

Is cutting carbs or cutting fat is better?  A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, suggest that it may not matter much.

A team of researchers led by Christopher Gardner, a professor of medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine, followed 609 overweight adults ages 18 to 50. The researchers put the study participants, consisting of equal numbers of men and women, on either a low-carb diet or low-fat diet for 12 months.

After about 20% of the participants dropped out, the final results showed that the dieters who cut out carbs or fat while maintaining a healthy diet lost about the same proportion of excess weight.

Gardner’s team assessed the study participants before the study, to account for individual differences. The research team sequenced the participant’s genetic code, to look for specific gene patterns that could affect weight loss, and they also measured insulin levels – a known factor in weight gain.

In the end, the researchers found that genetics and insulin levels didn’t affect an individual’s success on either diet.

The study participants were encouraged to follow healthy eating plans, rather than eating junk food simply because it was low in fat or carbs. As professor Gardner points out,

“We made sure to tell everybody, regardless of which diet they were on, to go to the farmer’s market, and don’t buy processed convenience-food crap,”

The participants were encouraged to eat so that they felt full, as professor Gardner also pointed out

“we advised them to diet in a way that didn’t make them feel hungry or deprived — otherwise it’s hard to maintain the diet in the long run.” Adding “We wanted them to choose a low-fat or low-carb diet plan that they could potentially follow forever, rather than a diet that they’d drop when the study ended.”

Following a healthy eating plan, the participants lost 13 pounds on average by the end of the 12-month study.

Bottom Line

While the Stanford researchers didn’t compare specific meal plans such as the low carb Atkins and Rosedale Diets, the study suggests that these low carb diets are no better than a low-fat diet to lose weight.

Related: Want to live longer? Eat more fruits and vegetables.

Related: Want to lose weight? Here’s how to get 10 servings of fruits and veggies daily.

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Cover Photo: Getty Images

HANAE ARMITAGE “Low-fat or low-carb? It’s a draw, study finds.” Stanford Medicine News Center. FEB 20 2018. Link to Stanford press release.

Gardner CD, Trepanowski JF, Del Gobbo LC, Hauser ME, Rigdon J, Ioannidis JPA, Desai M, King AC. Effect of Low-Fat vs Low-Carbohydrate Diet on 12-Month Weight Loss in Overweight Adults and the Association With Genotype Pattern or Insulin SecretionThe DIETFITS Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2018;319(7):667–679. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.0245. Link to article in JAMA.


Diagnosis, Treatment, and Advice:  This article is intended for informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for qualified, professional medical advice.  The opinions and information stated in this article should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Consult a qualified and licensed physician for the diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Experimental treatments carry a much higher risk than FDA-approved ones. Dial 9-1-1, or an equivalent emergency hotline number, for all medical emergencies. As well, consult a licensed, qualified physician before changing your diet, supplement or exercise programs.
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