Weight Loss

Low-Carb vs. Low-Fat – The Cage Match

A small study has found that maintaining a low-carb diet helped people lose weight just as well as a low-fat diet.

According to a NPR report, 19 obese volunteers, all of whom weighed at least 230 pounds, were put on a low-fat diet for two weeks and then a low-carb diet for two weeks. During the study period, researchers reduced calorie intake by 30% in both diets. Unlike many less scientific studies, the volunteers were kept in lab settings the entire time to make sure they followed the diet. During the study period, researchers discovered that both the low-carb approach and the low-fat approach resulted in 4 pounds of weight loss after the 2-week period.

The study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, showed that insulin levels in the bodies of the volunteers decreased; this is a key component in burning body fat. Since both diets were effective, the study suggests that cutting calories may be more important than cutting carbs, says lead researcher Dr. Kevin Hall of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

However, as with almost all studies on nutrition, there are limitations to this study. For example, it did not analyze whether a low-carb diet or a low-fat diet is easier to maintain in the long run, instead focusing on a month-long period. Also, it would be good for future researchers to replicate the same results with a higher number of participants. Still, laboratory-condition dietary studies are rare, and this study provides a good starting point for answering the breaded-chicken-or-the-fried egg question of whether it’s best to avoid carbs or fats.

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Travis served as a staff writer for Insulin Nation and Type 2 Nation in 2015. Previously, he was a staff writer for Insight, a high school newspaper, as well as a copywriter for The Emersonian, Emerson's yearbook.

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