Low carb vs. low fat diets

August 23, 2010 5:59:38 AM PDT
A low carb diet versus a low fat diet-- which is better for you? A new study shows they both yielded similar results, but one gave dieters an extra benefit, an increase in good cholesterol.

There are some things that always hold true about diets. One is that they work better with behavior changes and two, they work in the short term, but long term consistency is much more difficult. This study followed over three hundred dieters for two whole years. They compared one diet low carbohydrate versus another low fat.

After two years, results showed both diets worked equally well to take off the pounds.

"Both diet groups lost a significant amount of weight after two years," said Dr. Gary Foster of Temple University.

Both groups lost 7 percent of their body weight.

Study participants were also encouraged by behavior interventions, including counseling, as well as strategies to changes bad habits.

"Those behavioral strategies are things like keeping track of what you eat, and how much you move, limiting the triggers for overeating, like watching T.V. or eating in the car," said Dr. Foster.

What we eat affects us more than just in weight. The study, published today in the annals of internal medicine, also found that choosing a low carb or a low fat diet actually affected cardiovascular risk factors in a surprising way.

"Low carb dieters actually experienced grater increases in the good cholesterol, HDL cholesterol than did low calories low fat dieters," said Dr. Foster.

The low carb diet made a big difference in the improvement of good cholesterol.

Patients on the low carbohydrate diet experienced a 23 percent increase in their HDL cholesterol compared to about a 10 to 12 percent increase for those on the low fat diet.

One of the most popular low carb diets is the Atkins diets, which limits carbohydrates like bread and pasta and even some vegetables. It's been controversial. This study contradicts the conventional wisdom that low carbohydrate diets would actually make blood levels worse.

Remember, behavioral strategies can make almost any diet effective in terms of weight loss.