By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.
That’s the conclusion of a study comparing the effect of a year-long low-carbohydrate diet with a low-fat diet on body weight and cardiovascular risk factors. Researchers from Tulane University, Johns Hopkins, and Kaiser Permanente randomly divided a racially diverse group of 148 men and women into either a limited low-carb or low-fat diet. The low-carb diet featured protein and fat, with a good deal of fish, olive oil, and nuts, along with some cheese and red meat. The low-fat group ate more grains and starches. Both were encouraged to eat vegetables.
At the end, the approximate averages of the two groups clearly showed across-the-board effectiveness from a low-carb diet: 3.5 kilos (almost 8 pounds) more weight loss, greater reduction in body fat, improvement in lean muscle mass, and improvement as well in HDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
The low-carb diet was more effective for weight loss and cardiovascular risk factors than the low-fat diet,” the researchers said. The study was believed to be one of the first long-term diet trials not based on calorie restriction.
My Viewpoint: This study shows you don’t have to count calories to lose weight more efficiently, just cut down on the carbs. Changing what you eat is much easier than struggling to reduce calories. Research is proving that carbohydrate consumption, not fat, stokes weight gain and obesity. I’ve been saying that for years. The key to weight loss and to health in general, is to lay off the convenience carbs, that is, the highly-processed refined carbohydrates, full of addictive flavor, sweets, and empty calories, that lead to overconsumption and weight gain.
What This Means to You: These findings are another clear message to significantly reduce your consumption of sodas, sweets, cookies, cakes, white flour products, and white rice – the kind of carbs that pack on the weight, contribute to inflammation and cardiovascular risks. Limiting carbs raises beneficial HDL cholesterol and lowers triglycerides: blood fats that build up from excess calories. I am glad to see more research challenging the traditional anti-fat dogma.
Recommendation: Focus on good fats. Forget the low-fat nonsense. Low-fat foods are often packed deceptively with sugar and carbs. Low-carb, not low-fat, is in your best interest. Good fats include organic avocado, butter, extra-virgin olive oil, coconuts and coconut oil (for cooking), walnuts, and wild-caught, fatty-fish like salmon. And remember this as well – good diet is one way to lose weight but you also need some regular physical activity to help keep it off. Something even as simple as walking is great!
- Bazzano LA, et al. Effects of Low-Carbohydrate and Low-Fat Diets: A Randomized Trial. Ann Intern Med. 2014;161(5):309-318. Published online at http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=1900694
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