Low-carb diets no better than low-fat for losing weight

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Some whose genetic markers indicated a low-carb diet would work better for them did not lose significantly more or less weight on either kind of diet, and the same was true for low-fat dieters.

The low-fat group lost on average 11 pounds across the group, while the low-carb group averaged 13 pounds of weight loss per person, a statistically insignificant difference, Time reported.

Despite the similar overall averages, the researchers found huge individual variations in weight loss among the subjects and, interestingly, none of the variations correlated with either specific genotypes or a person's baseline insulin levels. The answer, in both cases, was no.

"It's because we're all different, and we're just starting to understand the reasons for this diversity". "In the context of these 2 common weight loss diet approaches, neither of the 2 hypothesized predisposing factors was helpful in identifying which diet was better for whom".

"What we do know is that some diets work better for some individuals than others, yet the factors that drive these inconsistencies remain unclear".

No significant differences were observed between the two groups for mean 12-month weight changes (low-fat diet group, -5.3 kg vs. low-carbohydrate diet group, -6 kg).

Each group was instructed to maintain their diet for one year. By the end of that year, about 20% of participants had dropped out, due to outside circumstances.

The individuals began by limiting their daily carbohydrate or fat intake to 20 grams for the first eight weeks.

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After that they added back five to 15 grams of fat or carbs gradually, aiming to reach a balance they believed they could maintain for the rest of their lives.

The participants weren't told to cut their energy intake, but that ended up happening anyway: at the end of the 12 months they were eating 500-600 calories less every day, just by focusing on eating nutrition-packed foods. In the healthy low-carbohydrate diet group, 37.5% had the low-fat genotype and 31.9% had the low-carbohydrate genotype.

Gardner said he was pleased with the above statistics, given the average fat consumption for the participants before the study was around 87 grams per day, and average carbohydrate intake was about 247 grams.

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". Those on the low-fat diet improved their "bad" LDL cholesterol more, while the low-carb group improved their "good" HDL cholesterol and reduced their triglyceride levels more.

'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, ' Dr Gardner said.

The team recruited 609 people aged between 18 and 50 and randomly allotted them to either follow a low-carb diet or a low-fat diet over the course of a year.

They found both groups lost weight equally well, averaging around 6kg. However, there was a lot of weight loss variability among people for each type of diet, which suggests that what works for some people won't necessarily work the same way for others.

He says his previous study appears to have been blighted by outliers - women who failed to lose weight turned out to have gone through significant emotional upheavals, such as a divorce, whilst women who lost weight were fanatic calorie counters. After this, they were told to eat the lowest amount of whichever food group they were limiting that was possible while still feeling full after meals.