The battle between low-fat and low-carb diets seems to be at a standstill.
Diets are definitely not one-size-fits-all, as what works for one person may not prove successful for someone else.
The researchers speculated that genes involved in how carbohydrates and fat are metabolised, as well as the production of insulin (the hormone that regulates blood sugar), would impact the success of the diets. It all depends on the person - although they haven't yet been able to determine the all important characteristics that determine which camp you fall into.
"We've all heard stories of a friend who went on one diet - it worked great - and then another friend tried the same diet, and it didn't work at all", explains lead author of the study, Christopher Gardner. The reason being all are varied, and we are just commencing to comprehend the basis for this diversity. Maybe we shouldn't be asking what's the best diet, but what's the best diet for whom?'
Researchers recruited 609 adults, aged 18 to 50 with a body mass index (BMI) of between 28 and 40, from around San Francisco.
Fat intake in the low-fat group averaged 57 grams during the study versus 87 grams beforehand; carb intake in the low-carb group averaged 132 grams versus 247 grams previously.
Over the course of a year, participants were invited to 22 group sessions to help them stick to their diet.
The low-fat dieters cut things like oils, fatty meats, full-fat dairy and nuts, while the low-carb dieters cut the likes of cereals, grains, rice, starchy vegetables and legumes. At the end of the year, they found both groups each lost about the same amount of weight, between 11 and 13 pounds approximately. Both groups were instructed to eat lots of vegetables and very few foods with added sugars, trans fats, or refined flour.
At the start of the year, "participants got part of their genome sequenced, allowing scientists to look for specific gene patterns associated with producing proteins that modify carbohydrate or fat metabolism" but "neither genotype pattern nor baseline insulin secretion was associated with the dietary effects on weight loss", per a report on the study by Citizen. Yet another theory is that carbs and fats are the main sources of calories in American diets, so if you significantly cut back on one or the other you're nearly certain to cut back on calories too. There was still, however, vast weight loss variability among them. "There are short-term studies that show diets that contain more protein and [healthy] fats are satiating", she says, so people are more likely to stay with them. Interestingly, these results challenged a smaller study Gardner and his Stanford team completed in 2010 that suggested genetically matched diets did indeed result in more weight loss.
Individual results after a year were quite varied - one person lost 60 pounds, while another gained 20 - but the average weight loss in each group was nearly identical: 11 pounds in the low-fat group, compared to 13 pounds in the low-carb group.
None of the study participants were told to cut calories. "I feel like we owe it to Americans to be smarter than to just say 'eat less.' I still think there is an opportunity to discover some personalization to it - now we just need to work on tying the pieces together".
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