Which diet will work for you: Low-carb or low-fat?


Study variables (eg, number of participants, design of dietary evaluation), participant variables (eg, age, sex, baseline weight, fasting serum glucose level), diet variables (eg, carbohydrate content, caloric content, duration) were abstracted from each study.Two authors independently reviewed articles meeting inclusion criteria and abstracted data onto pretested abstraction forms.The included studies were highly heterogeneous with respect to design, carbohydrate content (range, 0-901 g/d), total caloric content (range, 525-4629 kcal/d), diet duration (range, 4-365 days), and participant characteristics (eg, baseline weight range, 57-217 kg).

Both diets induced the same amount of weight loss, Gardner said, in addition, the researchers did not gain any new insights as to why some of the participants lost more weight compared to others, regardless of the diet method they used.

Researchers also homed in on genetics to discover if biology would encourage an individual's body to favor a low-carbohydrate diet or a low-fat diet, but they found no associations between gene patterns and a propensity to succeed on either diet. 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 different, and we're just starting to understand the reasons for this diversity".

Of the 244 people with the low-fat genotype, 130 happened to land in the low-fat diet group, meaning they were on the "right" diet for their DNA. About half were men and half were women. The grapefruit diet, Atkins, paleo, Whole30 - like a many-headed weight-loss hydra, just as soon as one falls out of favor, another rises in its place.

The study participants were not told to count calories or anything, but had to limit either their fat or carbohydrate intake.

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The trend of tailoring diets to suit people's genetic make-up is set to be short-lived, with the latest evidence suggesting genes have nothing to do with weight loss. Some people lost 40 or more pounds, he says, while others gained 10 or 20. They were allowed to increase that to more manageable levels during the rest of the study.

Further, enormous weight loss variability was observed among the participants of both the groups. The results suggest there is no difference between low-fat and low-carb diets and diet quality may help people lose weight and keep it off.

Meanwhile, Dr. Apovian tells her patients, most of whom have insulin resistance, to eat a diet lower in carbs, particularly grains.

The results, published online in JAMA, showed no significant interaction between the amount of weight loss, individual genotype responsiveness patterns - a low-fat or low-carb-responsive genotype - and appropriate matching to corresponding diet type (ß 1.38, -0.72 to 3.49, P=0.20), according to Christopher D. Gardner, PhD, of the Stanford Prevention Research Center in California, and colleagues.

The fundamental strategy for losing weight does not change whether you are pursuing a low-fat or a low-carb approach, added Professor Gardner.

Here's some good diet advice: eat more fruits and vegetables. "Also, we advised them to diet in a way that didn't make them feel hungry or deprived - otherwise it's hard to maintain the diet in the long run", said Gardner. Gardner and colleagues now want to investigate the microbiome, epigenetics, or a different gene expression pattern they've yet to figure out for clues that might explain the drastic variability. "I'm hoping that we can come up with signatures of sorts", he said.