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There has been a great deal of controversy about low-carbohydrate diets and weight loss. The main argument is that it is easier for people to lose weight eating a low-carb "Atkins" type diet than the recommended low-fat diets, which have been shown to help reduce risk of heart disease and other illness.
In a well-designed study, Dr. Kasim-Karakas and her colleagues at the University of Calfornia, Davis, investigated the effect of eating a very low-fat diet (AJCN 2006;83:774-779). The research lasted for 12 months and studied 22 healthy postmenopausal women. The initial phase lasted 4 months, and the participants ate all their meals at the study site Monday through Friday and were given prepackaged meals to take home for the weekend.
Over the course of that period the participant’s diets were personalized to the amount of energy (calories) required for each individual. The diets were then gradually reduced from 35% of calories from fat down to a 15% fat content. At the end of 4 weeks they were eating about 14% of their calories from fat and 67% from carbohydrates (pretty much the opposite of a low-carb diet).
The second phase lasted 8 months and the participants were allowed to eat what ever they wanted from commercially available foods. The only goal was to restrict fat intake to 15% of total calories. Education and training were provided trough group and individual counseling. The group would also have a potluck dinner once a week followed by a support group session.
The researchers were specifically looking at a number of markers in the blood that are associated with inflammation that have been linked to health conditions such has heart disease. The initial phase didn’t show significant change, but in the second phase of the diet there was significant improvement in the inflammatory markers.
The most fascinating result to come from this study was that when the participants were allowed to eat what they wished as long as it was low fat they lost weight at a much higher rate than during the first four months when the researchers carefully controlled the calorie intake. While eating the low-fat diet during the second phase they lost an average of 13 pounds.
The researchers feel that the weight loss experienced by the study participants may be as important a factor in the changes in inflammatory markers as the low-fat diet might itself.
This is another study that shows reducing the number of calories that you eat leads to weight loss. It shows that eating a low-fat, high-carb diet leads to weight loss and that such a diet has a favorable effect on chemicals in our body that are linked to disease. What is needed now is a similar study to compare a high-fat, low-carb diet.
Eat well, eat healthy, enjoy life!
June 19, 2006