Colette's Blog

Don’t Believe the Hype—Low-Fat Does Not Beat Low-Carb

August 23, 2015

You may have
seen it in the news last week… A new study funded by the National Institutes of
Health found that people lost more body fat on a low-fat diet than a low-carb
diet. What?! Before you believe the media hype and swap out your avocados,
olive oil, steak and cheese for bread, lets get the facts. You know the old
adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover”? I’d like to vehemently add to that
with “Don’t judge a study by its coverage.”

In this
study, 19 people ate the same thing for five days. Then they were placed either
on a low-fat diet or a “low-carb” diet (140 grams/day) for the next six days. The
patients then switched diets. The result? While both groups lost weight, the
people on the low-fat diet lost more weight. And suddenly that’s all you hear…
“Low-Fat Trumps Low-Carb”, “Research Says Cut Fat, Not Carbs To Lose Weight”…
and so on and so forth.

But dig a
little deeper, and you get to the truth of the matter. All this media hype and
lazy reporting trying to convince everyone that a low-fat diet is the way to go
is based on a study with a few flaws. First of all, 140 grams of net carbs a
day is not low enough to predominantly burn fat for fuel. And two weeks (the
length of the study) does not give the body time to adjust to a fat burning
metabolism on a low carb diet.

Second, this study is
not relevant to the real world because it was in a metabolic ward and what people
ate and how they exercised were under extremely controlled conditions for a
very short time. In the real world, we deal with a variety of factors that
affect our food choices and level of exercise. With that being said, even at a
relatively high intake of 140 grams of net carbs a day, study participants did
lose weight.

Meanwhile, Atkins recommends a starting point intake of up to 50 grams of
net carbs a day for weight loss, and a person’s personal carb tolerance could
go up to 120 grams of net carbs a day for healthy weight maintenance.

There are numerous peer review clinical studies that have demonstrated the
efficacy of a low-carb diet in the last two decades that contain a true low-carb
intake, longer trial periods and larger sample sizes—which is what makes up a
quality study.

Long story short? As evidenced in this study and many more in the past few
decades, Low-carb diets work, and they work well for achieving weight loss
goals and achieving health improvements. This is consistent in the literature. Over
and over again.

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