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Which Is The More Effective Diet: Low Carb Or Low Fat?

Published on March 16, 2018
Posted in low carb low fat, Diet, stanford university school of medicine

Most people who have lost weight thanks to a certain diet give a similar answer when asked about their success: “I found the regimen that works best for me.” This suggests that it’s easy to choose the right diet, when, in reality, this is not the case. Different diets work for different people, so how are you supposed to know which one will help you achieve your goals?

Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine wanted to find out whether biological characteristics like insulin levels or specific genotype patterns played a role in the effectiveness of certain diets. They hypothesized that while a low carb diet might work for one person, a low-fat diet might be better for someone else due to these characteristics.

Separating Participants Based On Biological Factors

Led by Professor Christopher Gardner, the team recruited 609 male and female participants ages 18 to 50. Before the study began, researchers examined the participants’ insulin levels as well as their genomes to see if they possessed gene patterns that are associated with producing proteins that modify carbohydrates or metabolize fat.

Each participant went on a low carb diet or a low fat diet for one year. Throughout the first eight weeks, participants were instructed to consume just 20 grams of carbohydrates or 20 grams of fat, depending on their group. The groups were then instructed to increase their carbohydrate or fat consumption by gradually adding 5 to 15 grams at whichever intervals they liked. This system was designed to create a balanced diet that each participant, if they had to, could hypothetically maintain for the remainder of their lives.

A Realistic Approach To Both Options

Professor Gardner noted that the participants’ diets were healthy, filling, and relatively easy to maintain.

“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. Also, we advised them to diet in a way that didn't make them feel hungry or deprived -- otherwise it's hard to maintain the diet in the long run," he said. "We wanted them to choose a low-fat or low-carb diet plan that they could potentially follow forever, rather than a diet that they'd drop when the study ended."

Which Diet Resulted In The Most Weight Loss?

By the time the study came to a close, the low fat group was consuming around 57 grams of fat per day, while the low carb group was consuming around 132 grams of carbohydrates per day. Participants from both groups had lost an average of thirteen pounds. Some had lost nearly five times that amount. There was no discernible difference, however, in weight loss between the two groups. And when the researchers looked at their previously-gathered data about insulin and genome patterns, they concluded that neither factor played a role in the amount of weight each participant lost.

This suggests that low carb diets and low fat diets are equally effective for weight loss, and their success has nothing to do with the individual’s biological makeup.

According to Professor Gardner, the reason both diets proved equally effective was because they followed the same basic principles: less sugar, less refine flour, and of course, plenty of vegetables and whole foods. It seems that even though the two groups had different goals, achieving them simply meant using common sense to make healthy choices.

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