Low Carb vs. Low-Fat: Which One is the Magic Bullet?

Diets, diets, diets… every time I turn around, it seems as if there’s a new one that’s supposed to take us to our goal weight in the blink of an eye!

If you’re like me, you’ve probably seen a bazillion diets through the years. In the 1980s and 1990s, everything had to be low fat. After that fad died out, it was replaced by the Atkins and South Beach diets, who preached the evil of carbs, and now we’ve got the low-carb keto diet as the proverbial answer to our prayers. So, which is it: low carb or low fat?

A new study sheds some light on the dueling diets

A study conducted by Stanford and published in the The Journal of the American Medical Association set to uncover which type of diet approach yields the best results (https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2673150). For this study, researchers aimed to overcome the shortcomings of past studies–such as too small of a sample group or too short of a duration–by studying more than 600 overweight people for at least 12 months, with nutrition coaching sessions to ensure dieters were following their particular diet correctly.

As part of the study, researchers also decided to examine the link between diet type and insulin secretion. All participants underwent an oral glucose tolerance test at three-month intervals throughout the year.

All the study participants were screened for 15 genotypes, including nine that researchers believe would mean better results on a low-carb diet and five thought to be better for low-fat diets. What researchers found was surprising in some ways: both diet types yielded similar weight and fat loss. Insulin secretion made no difference in weight loss, and 10 percent of participants in each group noted improvements in metabolic syndrome.

Perhaps the more interesting takeaway from this diet was that people who ate whole foods simply ate less. Sticking to a strict low-carb or low-fat diet was very hard, and the study had a relatively high dropout rate of 21 percent because of this. Some people, despite the diets, actually gained weight during this study.

If you’re looking for the perfect diet, it looks like there is no such thing. For real weight loss success, focus on making dietary changes you can live with and stick to, with an emphasis on more whole foods and fewer processed foods.