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Is that right? Low-carb and low-fat diets equal for weight loss

A study published recently in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that a low-carb diet has an edge over a low-fat one for improving cardiovascular health, but either approach can result in similar weight loss.


In this (admittedly, by the study's authors) very small study in which participant attrition was high,153 obese people followed an Atkins-style low-carb diet while 154 followed a low-fat, calorie-restricted regimen, both for two years. Both groups received lifestyle intervention counseling, learning to engage in more physical activity and such.

While at intermediate checkpoints the low-carb group saw modest improvements in such cardio-disease risk factors as diastolic blood pressure and triglyceride levels, in the end the only real difference between the two was a substantial boost in heart-healthy HDL cholesterol among the low-carb dieters.

After two years, both groups -- whose numbers had diminished by 32 percent in the low-fat group and 42 percent in the low-carb -- had lost about the same amount of weight. But while both groups had lost about 11 percent of their body weight at 12 months, both groups also regained weight between that time and the end of the 24-month study, when the loss was just 7 percent of initial body weight -- about 15 pounds.

Of course, every little bit helps. But think what that says: People following either a low-carb or a low-fat diet actually GAINED weight after the first year. Am I the only one who finds that depressing?

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  August 13, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Cardiovascular Health , Chronic Conditions , Is That Right? , Nutrition and Fitness  
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Comments

It's not depressing when you realize that most people gradually return to their habitual ways of eating after 4-6 months of dieting. If you don't follow the diet, it's not going to work.

The corollary is: Follow the diet long-term and it's much more likely to work long-term.

Regardless of the authors contention, this was a relatively large study. The drop-out rate was typical for this type of study. And two years of follow-up is outstanding and a major strength of this study.

-Steve Parker, M.D.

Posted by: SteveParkerMD | August 13, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: lillypurce12 | August 14, 2010 1:20 AM | Report abuse

It is hard to believe people are 'still buying' in to the notion that diets work. Even someone who claims to be a doctor.

All these diet schemes are marketing ploys to sell books and food programs. There is no money to be made in telling people to eat less and exercise more. However, that is the ONLY thing work works.

Posted by: RichardinPasadena | August 14, 2010 9:07 AM | Report abuse

I have a friend who I play tennis with who basically wasn't overweight, maybe 10 lbs.
She gave up all "white" food, bread, pasta etc. and the 10 lbs dropped off in 3 weeks. No special diet, just no white foods. I couldn't believe it.

Posted by: kat2show | August 14, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Most people see going on a diet as a temporary activity. They go from eating too much (and gaining weight), to eating too little for a while (and losing weight), then back to eating too much (and gaining the weight back).

For most people, yo-yo weight loss and gain are inevitable.

A successful diet, one that allows you to lose weight and keep it off, is a life-long commitment. You will ALWAYS be on a diet.

Posted by: rlguenther | August 15, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

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