Low-Fat, Low-Carb Diet Study Shows They Work About the Same


"We've all heard stories of a friend who went on one diet - it worked great - and then another friend tried the same diet, and it didn't work at all", said Christopher Gardner, Professor of medicine at Stanford University in California.

"In any weight loss diets, adherence to the diet and the overall quality of the diet are probably more important than any other factors", said Hu.

How many conversations have you had with your friends debating what the best way to lose weight is: to eat a low-fat diet or a low-carbohydrate diet? Yet another theory is that carbs and fats are the main sources of calories in American diets, so if you significantly cut back on one or the other you're nearly certain to cut back on calories too. After one year the results are in and it's a draw. That's similar to what other studies have found, but there's an interesting wrinkle.

At the end of the 12 months, those on a low-fat diet reported a daily average fat intake of 57 grams, while those on low-carb ingested about 132 grams of carbohydrates per day. Before the study started, the average fat consumption for the participants was around 87 grams a day, and average carbohydrate intake was about 247 grams.

But in the months that followed, participants were encouraged to gradually add in small amounts of carbs or fat until they reached a daily amount that satisfied them (which ended up being around 57g fat and 132g carbohydrate, still well below the amounts they'd regularly eaten before the study).

She says: "There are pros and cons of both low carb and low fat diets but the fundamental take home message should focus on the commonalties of the two diets, i.e. what the participants were advised to eat, aside from restricting either carbs or fat".

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The latest study made sure participants stuck to their diets so the results would be more accurate. But there was no link whatsoever between what diet they were on and the tested genes.

The participants, around half of which were men and the other half women, were randomly assigned either a healthy low-carb or healthy low-fat diet that they were instructed to maintain for a year. Those in the low-fat group lost about 11.7 pounds on average, while the members of the low-carb group lost a little more than 13 pounds.

"It's a huge market and readers are hungry for the "next diet fad" to try".

Further, genotype pattern and baseline insulin secretion were not associated with the dietary effects on weight loss, according to the researchers.

So, by answering some questions, the research is opening the door to new ones.

The individuals enrolled in this study may have "cheated, " Dr. Apovian suggests, by not adhered completely to the low-fat or low-carb plan. In fact it's not the diet that you should be mindful of, but your body. Unlike cancer treatments, diets can't be matched to genotype, the new study shows. "There are short-term studies that show diets that contain more protein and [healthy] fats are satiating", she says, so people are more likely to stay with them. "But let's cut to the chase: We didn't replicate that study, we didn't even come close". "I still think there is an opportunity to discover some personalisation to it [dieting] - now we just need to work on tying the pieces together".