Low-carb or low-fat? This question can really put a huge wedge between health enthusiasts. A study shows no significant difference in weight loss between 2 groups of people who ate either a low-fat diet (Below 20g of fat/day) or a low-carb diet (Below 20g of carbs/day). They didn’t exclude people who are insulin resistant, even though they have a reputation of needing a low carb diet. The study included 600 people and lasted for 12 months, which is great since nutritional studies are usually of shorter duration [1]. But if you dive into the results, what do they really say?

Personally, I’m excited about the results, since they debunk the myth that carbs are bad for anyone.

If I dive into the results, it turns out that neither the low-carb group or low-fat group were compliant with the diet. After 3 months, the low-carb diet had about 96,6g carbohydrates daily, and the low-fat group had about 42g fat daily. But the one thing both groups had in common was that they ate mainly whole foods, as instructed.

 “While no caloric intake targets were given, both groups were instructed to consume high-quality whole foods and drinks. Specifically, they were instructed to “maximize vegetable intake … minimize intake of added sugars, refined flours, and trans fats; and … focus on whole foods that were minimally processed, nutrient dense, and prepared at home whenever possible.” [2].

“The study strongly encouraged its participants to consume healthy diets rich in whole foods and not to fill their pantries with low-fat or low-carb junk food.” [2].

Neither group was actually consuming a low-carb or low-fat diet. They were following a whole food diet with no caloric restriction, and they were both losing weight.

Fruits, vegetables, legumes are rich in carbohydrates, fibers and phytochemicals which protects you from lifestyle related diseases like heart disease and type-2 diabetes [3;4]. It’s very beneficial for you to center your diet around whole plants.

Since this study doesn’t really say anything about a low-carb diet, I’m still not convinced about the health benefits. Another study done with a fewer people in a shorter duration, the low-carb group had up to 20g carbohydrates daily, and therefore more fat and protein. The low-fat group had ≈30% fat. The result showed increased LDL in the low-carb group, despite their weight loss [5]. Increased LDL is associated with an increased risk of heart disease [6]. So, this might be an effective weight loss strategy, but not a healthy long-term eating pattern.

You are definitely free to choose whatever weight loss strategy you want. But it’s my recommendation that your diets centers around whole plants, and that you keep it low-fat (Below 30E% fat) during weight loss. Since plants are rich in fibers, they will decrease your risk of the lifestyle related diseases that the western world is struggling with today.

Sources:

  1. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2673150?redirect=true
  2. https://examine.com/nutrition/low-fat-vs-low-carb-for-weight-loss/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28796173
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28811706
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3132068/
  6. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/What-Your-Cholesterol-Levels-Mean_UCM_305562_Article.jsp#.W368vfZuI2w

 

 

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