Should You Follow a Low-Carb or Low-Fat Diet?

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There has been a lot of debate on what food groups to avoid when you want to lose that extra layer of stomach or body fat. And usually when people are trying to get cut, they start by cutting out the carbs. But there might be another food group that you should be paying closer attention too.

The question on low carb versus low fat was recently researched through a study by the US National Institutes of Health. The study, which was published in Cell Metabolism, revealed that despite much belief that a low-carb diet will lead to fat loss, the reality is that those who restricted dietary fat were able to reduce body fat. This is especially surprising because, according to the study, carb restriction did show a reduction of insulin and increased amount of fat burning.

So what’s the catch?  The key to the study, which was led by Kevin Hall, PhD, was his observation of previous studies. This led him to the realization that previous studies lacked the comparison of low-carb diets to low-fat diets.

In the study, Hall states, “A lot of people have very strong opinions about what matters for weight loss, and the physiological data upon which those beliefs are based are sometimes lacking,” Hall says. “I wanted to rigorously test the theory that carbohydrate restriction is particularly effective for losing body fat since this idea has been influencing many people’s decisions about their diets.”

Based on this, Hall set out to create a model that would cut both carbs and fats selectively from diets while keeping the other at the baseline of a diet. According to the study, “His model simulations showed that only the carb-restricted diet would lead to changes in the amount of fat burned by the body, whereas the reduced-fat diet would lead to greater overall body fat loss, but he needed the human data to back it up.”

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Hall’s study was then conducted on a controlled group of obese adults, who ate monitored food groups to determine if his theory about low-fat diets was correct.

The study in fact confirmed what Hall had stated, reinforcing that those who were placed under dietary fat restrictions lost more body fat than those who had carb restrictions, despite the fact that more fat was burned with a low-fat diet. This occurs because of the difference between how the body reacts to the changes over a longer period of time.

“There is one set of beliefs that says all calories are exactly equal when it comes to body fat loss and there’s another that says carbohydrate calories are particularly fattening, so cutting those should lead to more fat loss,” Hall said. “Our results showed that, actually, not all calories are created equal when it comes to body fat loss, but over the long term, it’s pretty close.”

Despite these findings, there is still speculation about how the overall factors surrounding the study can effect your diet. Hall suggests that the best diet therefore is the one you can stick to. But this study may in fact be able to assist in answering the question of why some diets are extremely effective and why others are ineffective. Furthermore, it shows how diets effect different people in different ways. 

Either way, it is a good idea to check how a low-carb diet is effecting you, and if it is not working the way you had anticipated, maybe try a low-fat diet instead. Everyone’s body reacts differently, meaning the first answer may not always be the right one.

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