Research reveals that low carbohydrate diets are healthier and more effective for losing weight than low fat diets.
There are a variety of different diets intended to help people lose weight. Every diet has its specific plan or method for weight loss. Some of the more popular diet plans involve eating lower amounts of fat or eating fewer carbohydrates. Whatever diet is chosen the goal is facilitate weight loss which is effective and safe. Two of the most popular forms of diet plans are the low fat and low carbohydrate plans. There is considerable debate over the effectiveness and safety of these diet plans. Large amounts of research have been dedicated to these diets and the bulk of this research reveals that low carbohydrate diets are healthier and more effective for losing weight than low fat diets.
To determine the efficacy of these two diets, researchers study three points of comparison. The first point of comparison between these diets is the measure of effectiveness with weight loss. The low fat diet typically works on the principle of consuming large amounts of lean meat and low fat foods while only consuming moderate amounts of carbohydrates. The diet works on the principle of lowering the caloric intake and thereby forcing the body to consume stored fat.
The low carbohydrate diet works on similar principle but instead of reducing fat, the reduction of carbohydrates forces the body to burn fat for energy. This also serves the purpose of creating weight loss. Using a low carbohydrate diet, the participant would refrain from most whole grains and other carbohydrate rich foods. (It should be stated that the form of carbohydrate diet being referred to is the reduction of most simple carbohydrates such as sugar based.)
According to Hoffman (2006), after four weeks of participating in a 1,000-calorie diet plan, low fat dieters lost an average of 3.5 pounds of fat. In contrast, the participants on the low carbohydrate, with the same caloric intake, lost an average of 4.5 pounds of fat. The dieters on the low carbohydrate diet were also reported to experience dynamic weight loss (Hoffman, 2006). The longer the dieters continued on the low carbohydrate diet the greater weight loss and speed by which it was shed. Over a period of 12 weeks low carbohydrate dieters doubled the weight loss of low fat dieters.
The second issue of comparison between diets is the safety of the diets. The means for testing the safety levels was to test body chemistry and look for abnormal levels of glucose, triglycerides, and cholesterol. When low fat dieters were tested, their blood sugar levels were unusually high. In contrast, the participants of the low carbohydrate diet revealed reduced blood glucose levels as well as other positive changes. Many participants experienced lower serum triglycerides and healthier cholesterol ratios while participating in the low carbohydrate diets (Hoffman, 2006).
According to the researcher, low carbohydrate diets were capable of reducing problems such as cholesterol and high blood sugar levels (Hoffman, 2006). The conclusions reached by researchers was that the link between diets and helath issues such as diabetes and heart disease could be significantly impacted by choice of weight loss diet (Hoffman, 2006). This was very important because low carbohydrate diets could aid in the prevention of heart disease and diabetes. As well, the research showed that low fat diets may significantly increase blood sugar levels dieters and therefore may be unsafe for individuals prone to or having diabetes.
The third point of comparison with the diets was hunger satisfaction. that the dieter felt while adhering to the diets. The measure of satisfaction is important because it shows whether the diet was able to be followed effectively. If a dieter is not satisfied he or she will have an increased chance of discarding the plan or not following it by eating outside the defined parameters.
Participants on the low fat diets reported having lower meal satisfaction (Alain et al, 2006). In contrast, low carbohydrate dieters felt satisfied longer after eating. While both groups had the same caloric intake, low fat dieters reported feeling hunger faster and more frequently than the low carbohydrate dieters. This fact shows that low fat diets may be ineffective at maintaining and promoting weight loss since the majority of dieters fail due to lack of efficacy (Alain et al, 2006). Increased hunger and dissatisfaction could increase the lack of efficacy.
The comparison of low fat and low carbohydrate diets in accordance with these points, one is forced to question the healthiness of the diets in general. Simply speaking, because a diet allows one to lose weight does not make it a healthy diet. The fact that low fat diets seem to increase blood sugar levels and do nothing to decrease cholesterol, indicates that the diet may make one prone to diseases such as heart disease and diabetes (Hoffman, 2006). Typically, low fat diets incorporate high levels of protein which has been shown to strain kidney function with waste removal. These factors significantly increase the risk of kidney disease and kidney failure (Alain et al, 2006).
In opposition, the benefits of a low carbohydrate diet can be seen through the reductiuon in blood sugar levels and cholesterol. As well, there is another benefit which seems to stem from the reduction of nutrient blocking foods such as breads and whole grains (Alain et al, 2006). Low carbohydrate diets allow the body to better absorb minerals and antioxidants (James et al, 2010). The low carbohydrate diet therefore allows the body to work more efficiently at digestion and nutrient absorption.
The health benefits of the low carbohydrate diets combined with the greater efficiency and satisfaction reveal that these diets may hold the key to better health for millions of people. This form of dieting could help lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes as well as improve the health of those currently suffering from these issues. This says nothing of lowering obesity rates which are directly linked to diet (Flegal et al, 2000). For these reasons, greater study should be allocated for low carbohydrate diets in order to find more efficient means of practice and other hidden 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