Recent Study On Low Fat Vs Low Carb Diet: What Does It Tell Us?

September 10th, 2014 · No Comments

A recent study from Tulane University and published in the well-respected Annals of Internal Medicine was highlighted in the news media recently, apparently shedding new light on the “low fat” vs “high fat” diet controversy. But does it really?

The study randomly divided a group of 148 people into two dietary groups and followed them for 12 months. One group followed a low fat diet, defined as less than 30% of total calories from fat and less than 7% of total calories from saturated fat. The other group followed a low carbohydrate diet, defined in this study as less than 40 grams of carbohydrate per day. Both groups received dietary counseling on an ongoing basis. All participants were advised to continue with the usual levels of physical activity throughout the duration of the study.

At the end of the study, people in both groups lost weight, but people in the low carbohydrate diet lost about 7 pounds more than the people in the low fat group. In addition, the people in the low carbohydrate diet group had more favorable improvements in their cholesterol levels.

So what do we learn from this study? Actually, we learn very little that is new. The study itself has some limitations, including the quality of the study design. People in the low fat diet, for example, had fewer restrictions and most likely a higher calorie intake than those in the low carbohydrate group (see an interesting editorial article by David Katz, from Yale University, go to: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-katz-md/post_8304_b_5752160.html)

Based on this and other research studies, dietary habits that help to optimize health should consistently include the following principles or patterns:

1. Think small!: Keep portions on the smaller side, to have smaller waistlines!

2. Limit saturated and trans fats (partially hydrogenated fats) in the diet: Restrict intake of beef, pork, and dairy fats, while avoiding trans fats in processed foods.

3. Seek a balance: Limit simple and processed carbohydrates, and take in a consistent balance between lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats (sometimes referred to as a Mediterranean pattern of eating; for more details, see http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/mediterranean-diet/art-20047801 and http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/how-to-eat-healthy/art-20046590)

4. Long-term view: Follow a healthy dietary pattern for the long-term, not just for short-term spurts.

Here’s to healthy eating!

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