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Low-Fat vs Low-Carb

Kate Freeman

Ding ding ding!

Ladies and gentleman! Welcome to the battle of the year!

The crowd roars as low-fat and low-carb stare each other down from their corners of the ring!

It’s been a fierce battle over the years and the rivals meet once again in a landmark study. Who will conquer as the best dietary approach for weight loss?

Here we go again! Yet another study has been published looking at low-fat vs low-carb diets. You’d think we’d be over this by now, but unfortunately, we eat up this stuff for breakfast!

I think it’s because we’re all super keen to find that ‘one special thing’. The thing that will help us achieve weight loss once and for all. I also think it’s because we’re constantly searching for clarity because deep down, we want to be confident in our food choices and know that the effort we’re putting into making dietary changes is going to pay off.

So why am I posting about another study to do with carbs, fat and weight loss? This study, in my mind, is a game changer and will hopefully put to rest the raging battle and bring peace to the nutrition galaxy (one can hope).

Here’s why:

  1. It has a large sample size, with over 600 participants taking part. The larger the sample size the higher the impact of the findings.
  2. It wasn’t looking at short-term results but followed the participants for 12 months.
  3. It carefully monitored compliance to the diets prescribed and measured some great data such as pathology and body composition using high quality standards of practice.

You can read a nice explanation of the study here and read the full published study here.

How it worked

There were two groups of people. One group followed a low-fat diet, guided by the ongoing support of a dietitian. The other group followed a low-carb diet, also guided by a dietitian in the same way. Both diets were healthy in that the participants were encouraged to choose whole, minimally processed foods and eat lots of fresh vegetables.

The researchers then measured dietary compliance, body composition and insulin levels at regular intervals throughout the study. They also classified participants by their genetic pre-disposition towards following particular diets.

What it found

The study showed no significant difference between the low-fat and low-carb diets. Both groups lost the same amount of weight over 12 months. It also found that neither genetics nor insulin production could predict weight loss success on either diet. This means that regardless of their genetic make-up and insulin levels, the participants got the same weight loss results following either diet.

So, two diets went into the ring. The conditions were fair, well-controlled and the science was rigorous. What came out of the ring was not one winner but two!

I’d like you to picture both diets holding hands with mutual respect and awe.

The take-home message

Stop trying to find the perfect approach! It doesn’t exist. A multitude of dietary options could work for you, but in order to get results you need to focus your efforts on consistently putting healthy behaviours into action each and every day.

The key principles of a high vegetable intake, choosing mostly whole, minimally processed foods and sticking within your energy budget are good places to start. If you’re truly struggling or truly confused, individualised advice is likely to be a highly valuable next step.

PS: This article is a VERY basic explanation of the study so please take the time to read the full piece of research for all the details.

Feature image by Brenda Godinez on Unsplash


Kate Freeman

Kate Freeman is a Registered Nutritionist and the founder and managing director of The Healthy Eating Hub. Kate’s healthy eating philosophy is all about whole, fresh foods, being realistic about life and creating long term healthy eating habits. She doesn’t believe in detoxes, fad diets or quick fixes. Once you’ve finished working with Kate, you’ll be empowered to feed yourself well for the rest of you life! More about the Author

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