Low Carb or Low Fat?

Want an easy way to start a fight among diet gurus? Just ask which strategy is better for weight loss and overall health: a low carb or low fat diet? Then stand back and watch those temperatures rise. There must be an answer, right? Finally, a scientific, broadly-based study might just put this controversy to rest. Now, no peeking, which strategy do you think is best?

Dr. Lydia Bazzano, with Tulane University, received a grant from the National Institutes of Health to resolve the low fat vs. low carb debate. The results of her research were recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, a prestigious, peer-reviewed journal.

The study followed 150 volunteers for a year. The group was a balanced distribution of men and women of all ethnicities, who agreed to follow one of two eating regimens for the duration of the study and submit to periodic medical checkups. Half of the group went on a low carbohydrate diet and the other half went on a low fat diet. Neither group was asked to restrict, or even count, their calories.

After a year, the two groups were compared. The low carb half of the volunteers lost an average of 8 pounds more than those on the low fat diet. Both groups lost weight, but the low carb group lost more. Even more surprising was that the low carb group lost more body fat than the low fat group. The low fat group lost more muscle tissue than fat. Wow!

Both groups were encouraged to eat vegetables, but no strict guidelines were issued. Similarly, there were no requirements about exercise. In fact, the volunteers were asked not to change their habits at all, other than their meal plans.

The low carb group ended the year in better shape medically, too. Their "bad" cholesterol was down while their "good" cholesterol was up, indicating improvement in heart and vascular health.

So, are you convinced now? The National Institutes of Health is certainly not out to promote one diet over another, and the research study appears rigorous and fair. Maybe Dr. Atkins was right?

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