What does the research say?
There are many different diets and methods for losing weight. All diets include a methodology for weight loss such as eating less fat or increasing protein intakes. These different methods are designed to facilitate and increase the body’s ability to lose weight more effectively. The two most popular forms of diet plans include high-protein low fat and low carbohydrate plans. While both plans are commonly used, there are issues of health concern and effectiveness. Bodies of research show that low carbohydrate diets are healthier more effective at facilitating weight loss than high protein low fat diets.
There are three issues of comparison that should be addressed when comparing high-protein low fat diets and low carbohydrate diets. The first issue one discovers concerning these diets is the efficiency of weight loss. High protein/low fat diets work on the principle of eating large amounts of lean meat combined with moderate amounts of carbohydrates. The body begins losing weight because of the low caloric intake. In contrast, low carbohydrate diets work on the principle that reducing carbohydrates forces the body to use fat for energy thereby reducing weight. One would refrain from most whole grains. In a large scale study, researchers measured the efficiency of both of these diets. After four weeks of being on a 1,000-calorie diet, the participants on the high protein/low fat diet lost on average, 3.5 pounds of fat (Hoffman, 2006). After four weeks on a 1,000-calorie diet, those participants on the low carbohydrate on average showed a 4.5 pounds greater loss of fat mass (Hoffman, 2006). What is interesting is that the low carb dieters seemed to experience weight loss that was dynamic in nature. The longer the diet was maintained the greater the level and speed of weight loss. The efficiency of weight loss increased over the course of twelve weeks such that the low carbohydrate diet had nearly doubled the weight loss effectiveness of the high protein dieters.
The second issue that needs to be examined, when comparing these diets, is the issue of safety. The high protein/low fat dieters were tested for blood sugar levels. These dieters showed abnormally high blood sugar levels. In contrast the low carbohydrate dieters showed significant reduction in blood sugar levels among other blood changes such as lower serum triglycerides and improved cholesterol ratios. The significance of these measurements is that low carbohydrate diets seem to decrease many problem areas in health such as cholesterol and blood sugar. This draws a strong connection to diabetes and heart disease risk factors (Hoffman, 2006). This means that low carbohydrate diets could help to prevent heart disease and many other diet related diseases. The unusually high levels of blood sugar in the high protein/low fat dieters show that these forms of diets may not be safe for individuals with diabetes or even for long-term use.
A third area of measurement with these diets was the satisfaction that the dieter felt while adhering to the diets. This area was self-reported by participants. Those individuals who were on low fat diets had lower post meal satisfaction (Alain et al, 2006). The low carbohydrate dieters reported feeling satisfied longer. In fact both groups maintained the same caloric intake but the high protein dieters were hungry faster and more often. This is an important aspect to a diet’s efficacy since a person not feeling satisfied might be more compelled to snack or not follow the plan. Most diets fail because individuals lack the self-efficacy to stick with the plan or the plans are too difficult to follow. The gravity of the satisfaction factor should not be underestimated in that it is a qualitative measure of a diets efficacy.
When one views the comparison of these diets the general healthiness of the diets comes into question. Just because a diet makes one lose weight does not mean that the diet carries any health benefit. Because high protein/low fat diets can increase blood sugar levels and make the body work harder to process nutrients, this substantially increases the risk of many diseases such as heart disease and diabetes (Hoffman, 2006). As well, high protein combined with moderate carbohydrates can make the kidneys work harder to eliminate wastes. This increases the chances of kidney disease and kidney failure (Alain et al, 2006).
The health benefits of the low carbohydrate diet become obvious when one recognizes the significance of lower blood levels of sugar and cholesterol. But another benefit comes from the fact that low carbohydrate diets allow the body increased efficiency for absorption of minerals and antioxidants (James et al, 2010). This result stems from the fact that on a low carbohydrate diet the dieter is eating less breads and whole grains which block the absorption of vitamins and minerals (Alain et al, 2006). This means that the body works more efficiently and utilizes food sources better.
The low carbohydrate diets are more efficient and healthier than the low fat diet. The low carbohydrate diet also presents a means for helping to control diabetes and heart disease. This could mean improved health and diminished cases of these diseases. As well, this means that obesity can be controlled more effectively and with less effort for dieters. This factor alone greatly reduces the risk of many different diseases which are often indirectly related such as intestinal cancers, irritable bowel disorder, and chronic heart burn. For these possible outcomes, further study should be committed to discovering more effective low carbohydrate diet methodologies and their benefits.
Alain J. Nordmann, MD, MSc; Abigail Nordmann, BS; Matthias Briel, MD; Ulrich Keller, MD;
William S. Yancy, Jr, MD, MSH; Bonnie J. Brehm, PhD; Heiner C. Bucher, MD, MP (2006) Effects of Low-Carbohydrate vs Low-Fat Diets on Weight Loss and Cardiovascular Risk Factors Retrieved from http://www.cebinstitute.org/fileadmin/upload/refman/Arch_Intern_Med_2006_166_285_ Nordmann.pdf
Flegal KM, Carroll MD, Ogden CL, Johnson CL. Prevalence and trends in obesity among US adults, 1999–2000. JAMA. 2002;288:1723–1727.
Hoffman R. (2006) Effects of variation in protein and carbohydrate intake on body mass and composition during energy restriction: a meta-regression American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 83: 260–74.
James W. Anderson, MD, Tammy J. Hanna, BS, Xuejun Peng, BS, and Richard J. Kryscio, PhD Whole Grain Foods and Heart Disease Risk Retrieved from http://www.jacn.org/content/19/suppl_3/291S.full.pdf+html