Researchers Find Low-Carb Diets Are Superior To Low-Fat For Weight Loss, Heart Health

Chuck Bednar for – Your Universe Online
Low-fat or low-carb – which type of diet is better when it comes to battling obesity and maintaining heart health? Researchers from the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine are weighing in on the longstanding debate.
In the latest edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine, lead author Dr. Lydia Bazzano, a professor of nutrition research at the New Orleans-based university, along with colleagues from Kaiser Permanente Southern California and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, explain that restricting carbohydrates was more effective for weight loss and cardiovascular risk factor reduction.
The study authors recruited 148 obese participants and assigned them to one of two specialized diets. One group consumed less than 40 grams of digestible carbs per day, while the other consumed less than 30 percent of their daily calories from fats. While both groups were given dietary advice, neither had strict calorie or exercise goals.
Twelve months later, the low-carb group lost an average of 7.7 pounds more than the low-fat group, the researchers revealed. Furthermore, the blood levels of certain fats which are predictors of heart disease risk also improved more in the low-carb group. Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol for both groups were about the same, but the low-carb group saw an increase in high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and a decline in ratio of bad-to-good cholesterol.
“Over the years, the message has always been to go low-fat,” Dr. Bazzano said in a statement Tuesday. “Yet we found those on a low-carb diet had significantly greater decreases in estimated 10-year risk for heart disease after six and 12 months than the low-fat group.”
However, as she told Lauren Raab of the Los Angeles Times, “This isn’t a license to hit the butter and meat fats.” Dr. Bazzano explained that both groups were given instructions to continue being as physically active as was normal for them, and that pre-study counseling covered topics such as meal planning, portion size and reading nutrition labels.
The study participants were also taught about the different types of fats, she told Raab. They were instructed that monounsaturated fats (like canola and olive oils) and polyunsaturated fats (those found in nuts and fish) were “recommended,” and that saturated fats (those solid at room temperature) were “not recommended.”
As Dr. Bazzano told USA Today’s Kim Painter, the low-carb diet participants “were not eating butter and burgers at every meal.” They got 41 percent of their calories from fat, but only 13 percent from saturated fats, meaning that their diets were rich in things like olive oil, canola oil, nuts and avocados, the Tulane University professor added.
“It’s not a license to go back to the butter, but it does show that even high-fat diets – if they are high in the right fats – can be healthy and help you lose weight,” she added. However, as University of Colorado School of Medicine obesity researcher James Hill told Painter, the research did not address the issue of long-term weight maintenance, and that increased (which was discouraged in the study) could require higher levels of carbohydrates.
“The study isn’t the last word on what kind of diet is best,” Raab added. “An analysis published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association looking at 48 studies involving overweight or obese participants found significant weight loss with any low-carbohydrate or low-fat diet.”
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