Carbs Or Fat?
Thinking about going on a diet? Jump on the bandwagon. These days it seems as though everyone you meet is on a diet. But which diet should you choose?
Some friends swear by low-carbohydrate diets, ala Atkins, while others say that low-fat is the only way to go. The good news is that according to the just-published results of a two-year study, you stand to lose about the same amount of weight no matter whether you cut out carbs or fat.
But experts caution that any diet must be in tandem with lots of guidance regarding exercise and eating. The author of this study, Gary D. Foster, who is the director of Temple University's Center for Obesity Research & Education states that it's of equal importance that dieters stay focused on discovering what will help them stick to their chosen diet.
Despite the good news about low-carb versus low-fat diets, some caveats remain. Dieters in both the low-fat and low-carb diet groups lost only 7% of their body weight two years into their dieting. But this fact needs to be tempered with the knowledge that many of the study participants were grossly obese.
Those dieters on the low-carbohydrate diet did experience an extra bonus: their levels of good cholesterol and blood pressure showed a slight improvement over those of the low-fat dieters. The report on this study is in the August 3, 2010 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.
While there has been much research on the subject of which type of diet trumps the others, Foster believes that this current study is different in that it examines the way diets work over a longer period of time. Foster's study was underwritten by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
During the study, Foster and his team kept a watch on 307 overweight participants for a period of two years. Some of the participants were on an Atkins-style diet, while others were on a low-fat diet. The mean age of the participants stood at 45, and the average body mass index (BMI) stood at 36. This indicates that the participants were not just overweight, but rather obese.
Participants following the low-fat diet were instructed to eat 1,200-1,800 calories each day while keeping the percentage of dietary fat below 30%. The low-carb dieters were told to eat no more than 20 grams of carbohydrates per day, though fat and protein were unlimited.
In a study published in 2008, Dr. Meir Stampfer, senior author of the study and professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, compared the low-fat diet to low carb-diets. Low-fat diets are endorsed by the American Heart Association and put the emphasis on grains, whole wheat pasta and bread, fruits and vegetables. The low-carb diet emphasizes meat, fish, chicken, eggs, and just a few vegetables. In the study, Dr. Stampfer said, "The low-carb diet was the clear winner in providing the most weight loss."
The study was conducted in two places, Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and Ben Gurion University in Be'er Sheva, Israel. 322 obese patients were randomly assigned to a low-fat diet, a low-car diet or a third eating plan, a Mediterranean diet, which includes lean protein and vegetables, along with lots of olive oil and nuts. The participants were followed for two years, the longest period of follow-up for any diet study to date focusing on weight loss results.
Low-fat dieters lost an average of 7.3 pounds over the two year period and followers of the Mediterranean diet dropped 10.1 pounds. However, the low-carb dieters shed the most weight, averaging a loss of 12.1 pounds.
"The low-carb diet makes you feel fuller and it's more satiating, so you're not as hungry," said Dr. Stampher. "That means it's easier to stick to that diet long term."