As if losing weight weren’t hard enough, sometimes it feels like the experts keep changing the rules on us. In the past couple of decades, we have been told to ditch the fat in favor of carbohydrates only to soon be warned that pasta, bread, and the like are the real reason for those extra pounds. Research now tells us that both approaches may be effective.
In what’s good news for bagel and butter lovers alike, recent research has found weight-loss benefits for diets low in fat and diets low in carbohydrates. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, each approach could result in weight loss, with minimal difference between the two.
Researchers compared weight-loss results among studies of overweight and obese adults who tried different diets—some with a low-fat approach and some with a low-carbohydrate approach. Participants reported their weight and body mass index after three months or longer on their respective diet. The researchers analyzed the results—accounting for such factors as additional support (such as classes and counseling) and physical activity—to determine the diets’ effects on weight loss. They also compared the results of individuals on low-fat and low-carbohydrate diets with results of individuals who did not follow any diet.
People who followed a low-carbohydrate diet lost more weight than both people who followed a low-fat diet and those who did not diet. The difference in weight loss between low-carbohydrate and low-fat diets, however, was minimal—not enough to recommend one over the other. What seemed most important for weight loss was following some type of diet.
If you are looking for that one magic bullet, these findings won’t give it to you, but what they do tell us is much better: the best route to weight loss might not be the latest fad but quite simply the approach that works best for each of us—the plan we can stick to.
Johnston BC, Kanters S, Bandayrel K, et al. Comparison of weight loss among named diet programs in overweight and obese adults: A meta-analysis. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2014;312(9):923-33. doi: 10.1001/jama.2014.10397.