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One More Reason to Say No To Low-Fat Diets

March 20, 2013

Last year I wrote about a large clinical study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that showed that dieters who had successfully lost weight and were trying to maintain their weight loss burned significantly more calories eating a low-carb diet modeled after Atkins than they did eating a low-fat diet. In fact, participants following the Atkins-style diet burned 300 more calories a day (that’s equivalent to an hour of exercise!) than they did on a low-fat diet. In addition, participants following the Atkins-style diet experienced a variety of health benefits, including increased HDL (“good” cholesterol), lowered triglycerides, reduced inflammation from baseline and improved insulin sensitivity.

During this same study, a smaller study was conducted on the participants that examined the effects of the three diets in the study (low fat, low glycemic index and very low carb) on post-meal energy expenditure (how many calories are burned for energy after a meal, i.e. resting metabolism) and the risk for weight regain during weight maintenance. The authors concluded that dieters had the slowest metabolism after eating a meal while following the low-fat diet than the very low carb diet or the low-glycemic diet. The low-fat dieters were also at risk for the most weight regain during weight loss maintenance. While both the very low carb and low-glycemic diets had favorable affects on metabolism and weight loss maintenance, the Atkins-style very low carb diet is still a winner when it comes to the other health benefits that participants experienced while following the diet.

The reason many dieters on a very low carb diet like Atkins have an easier time maintaining their weight loss over dieters on a low-fat diet is that they feel less hungry and more satisfied due to the higher percentage of fat they are consuming. Along with protein, fat makes you feel full, and because fat carries flavor, it makes food more satisfying. It takes twice as many calories from refined carbs than from fats to provide the same level of fullness, which makes fat a better choice if you want lose weight. Dietary fat also slows the entry of glucose into the bloodstream. This keeps your blood sugar in check, which means you’re less likely to be as ravenously hungry after eating fat than you’d be after eating refined carbs. Bottom line: eat fat in place of carbs, and you’re less likely to overeat.

Reference: Walsh CO, Ebbeling CB, Swain JF, Markowitz RL, Feldman HA, et al. (2013) Effects of Diet Composition on Postprandial Energy Availability during Weight Loss Maintenance. PLoS ONE 8(3): e58172. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0058172

To read the full study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3590159/

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