Losing weight by eliminating carbohydrates such as grains, fruits, breads and pastas is a popular dieting strategy that promises good results. Until recently, however, it was thought that a low-fat diet was the best way to stay slim and healthy in the long term. So which is better – low carb or low fat? Let’s look to science for the answer.
Scientists at the National Institutes of Health decided to take on the challenge of determining which method – low carb or low fat – was better for losing weight and keeping it off. For their study, they chose 19 overweight people to receive an energy-reduced diet for 6 days. Half the group was put on a low-carb diet while the other half was given a low-fat diet.
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The results of the study
The low-fat diet was the clear victor. Although insulin levels fell sharply and fat burning was greater in the low-carb group and, the participants on the low-fat diet were able to lose significantly more body fat.
The scientists concluded that the change in metabolism through the low-carb diet, with a reduction in insulin levels, had less of an impact on the success of the diet than many prior studies suggested.
How do our Vida180 experts rate the results of the Low Carb vs. Low Fat study and what it can mean for you. Vida180 nutritionist Eva Munkenbeck provides some clear answers.
Question: What are the advantages of low-carb diets and what are the disadvantages?
Answer: One advantage of low-carb diets is, of course, avoiding sugar and white flour products. That means you’re eating healthier and more consciously. But you can’t overlook the disadvantage. A carbohydrate-reduced diet may be beyond an individual dieter’s capability.
For most of us, giving up bread and pasta permanently isn’t possible. They’re important parts of our daily diet.
Because you’ll need lots of discipline to maintain a low-carb diet, the gold standard for weight loss, i.e. a long-term change in diet, is unlikely to be achieved. Instead, finding a diet you can stick to may be the most important factor for successful weight management.
While a low-carb diet may not be feasible in everyday life forever, it’s possible to reduce carbs without completely renouncing the low-carb dieting strategy.
Question: Why has the concept of low-fat diets failed in the past?
Answer: This diet method was often carried out as a short-term diet. While it was effective, the yo-yo effect brought the pounds back quickly once the dieter went back to their old ways.
Another mistake in the concept at the time was that the diet was only about reducing the amount of fat. Sugar and other “empty” carbohydrates were allowed without restrictions.
For example, gummy bears were allowed. But those “sugar pills” put a strain on the insulin metabolism and thus jeopardize the success of the diet. And that’s especially true if you constantly snack between meals and the blood sugar level is subject to constant fluctuations.
Question: What conclusions can you draw from this low carb vs. low fat study?
Answer: To me, it shows that both methods have benefits, but the reduction in carbs isn’t that much better as some dieters believe. At Vida180, a diet must fit into your everyday life so that it can be maintained in the long term.
I still advocate changing your diet to really get leaner and healthier. I also consider the reduction of body fat mass to be the most important goal, because this can bring clear advantages. It can help prevent nutrition-related diseases and the risk of type 2 diabetes, and also help you to stay slimmer in the long term.
My final conclusion on low carb vs. low fat is therefore: Pay attention to both carbohydrates and fat intake.
In plain language: Avoid sugar and white flour in your diet, and reduce the portion size of carbohydrate-containing dishes. Reduce hidden fat that comes from ready-made meals and baked goods. Consciously integrate healthy sources of fat such as high-quality oils, fatty fish (like salmon) and nuts into your diet plan.
Crash or highly-restrictive diets don’t work. Anything that can’t be sustained in your diet is likely to fail in the long-term.
Instead, pick the best parts of both the low-carb and the low-fat diets. Making positive changes in your eating habits and lifestyle give you the best chance of being able to reduce your weight and keep it off.
Vida180 can create a personal diet plan for you that allows the right amount of carbohydrates, eliminates bad fats and provides just as many calories as you need to lose weight in a healthy and sustainable manner. Get your free diet analysis now!