Is a low-carb or low-fat diet more effective?

Glen Mclaughlin
February 22, 2018

Craig Pickering of DNAFit said that genes besides the three in the Stanford study can contribute to weight loss as well as fat loss and gain, as a small 2007 study found, and that it is "putting the finishing touches" on a study showing that "subjects on a genetically matched diet lost more weight" than did those on a one-size-fits-all low-carb diet.

Individual results after a year were quite varied - one person lost 60 pounds, while another gained 20 - but the average weight loss in each group was nearly identical: 11 pounds in the low-fat group, compared to 13 pounds in the low-carb group.

The variation in weight loss results has baffled researchers for a number of years. It all depends on the person - although they haven't yet been able to determine the all important characteristics that determine which camp you fall into. "It's because we're all very different, and we're just starting to understand the reasons for this diversity". But there was no link whatsoever between what diet they were on and the tested genes.

The yearlong study by the Stanford Prevention Research Center included participants between 18 and 50 years old who were overweight or obese but otherwise healthy, Time Magazine reported. About half were men and half were women.

No one diet strategy is consistently better than others for weight loss in the general population, conclude the researchers.

Within the 12 month period, an average of 13 pounds were lost per person - that's just under 6 kgs - although some participants lost up 60 pounds (27.5 kgs) while others gained 20 pounds (9 kgs).

Gardner said he was pleased with the above statistics, given the average fat consumption for the participants before the study was around 87 grams per day, and average carbohydrate intake was about 247 grams. Go for whole foods, whether that is a wheatberry salad or grass-fed beef. There was still, however, vast weight loss variability among them.

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People were remarkably compliant about following their assigned low-fat or low-carb diet.

Many celebrities, including Kim Kardashian, Megan Fox and Mick Jagger, have found weight loss success by eating a low-carb, high-fat diet, dubbed the keto diet.

Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the nutrition department at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said the study did not support a "precision medicine" approach to nutrition, but that future studies would be likely to look at many other genetic factors that could be significant.

Commenting on the latest study, Dr Hannah Wardill, a NHMRC CJ Martin Biomedical Research Fellow at the University of Adelaide, says the results show that low-fat and low-carbohydrate diets make no difference to overall weight loss. "It's not so much about that food - it's really about [changing] this insane way that Americans eat". Although they had not been instructed to reduce calories, both groups cut the calories they ate by around 500 to 600 a day.

"Unfortunately, it still remains unclear which diet is the best for weight loss, and who the true demons really are ... carbs or fat", she says.

"It would have been sweet to say we have a simple clinical test that will point out whether you're insulin resistant or not and whether you should eat more or less carbs", he added. "But let's cut to the chase: We didn't replicate that study, we didn't even come close". "I still think there is an opportunity to discover some personalisation to it [dieting] - now we just need to work on tying the pieces together".

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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