South Beach. Atkins. The Zone. Low-carb diets have been in fashion for several years, especially those that promise no calorie restrictions, but so have numerous low-fat diets and diet foods. But which should you choose? Is a low-carb diet better than a low-fat one, or is it the other way around? Is low-carb dieting OK for your heart?
Clinical Study: Comparison of Low-Carb To Low-Fat Diets
A 2006 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine reviewed trials that compared low-carb diets with no calorie counting to low-fat diets with calorie-counting. The trials that were reviewed had participants with BMIs of at least 25, reported body weight changes and followed up with the participants after at least six months. The reviewers found five trials that fit their criteria, with a combined total of 447 participants.
The review found that low-carb diets work faster in the beginning, but after a while, it doesn’t matter as much. After the first six months, the low-carb dieters had lost about 3.3 kilograms more than the low-fat dieters. After 12 months, however, the low-carb dieters only weighed about one kilogram less than the low-fat dieters, despite the low-carb dieters being more likely to stick to the program.
Because there have been some concerns over whether low-carbohydrate diets, that allow relatively high amount of animal fat and protein consumption, have negative effects on the heart, the reviewers also analyzed the blood pressure and cholesterol levels of the participants.
After the first six months, the low-carb dieters tended to have lower blood pressure, but after 12 months, that tendency had disappeared. The cholesterol results for the low-carb dieters were mixed: the changes in their bad cholesterol were for the worse, but the changes in their triglycerides and good cholesterol were for the better. Because there was no evidence that low-carb diets reduce heart-related illness and death, the reviewers couldn’t recommend those diets for heart health.
That information alone might not bring you any closer to knowing which diet is right for you. There are a lot of variables when it comes to dieting, and one person’s “it doesn’t matter” could be your “it’s a great idea” or “it’s dangerous.” Before you start a low-carb diet, you should check with your doctor and make sure that he or she approves. Low-carb diets can have both good and bad effects on cholesterol, so it’s important to get your heart checked out and get your doctor’s go-ahead before you get started.
Also consider what type of diet you’ll be more likely to stick to. The review found that 70 percent of low-carb dieters stayed on their diet program, compared with 57 percent of low-fat dieters. Low-carb diets emphasize protein, which tends to be more satisfying than carbohydrates, so there may have been less temptation to fall off the diet wagon. Again, the most important part of dieting is to know your body.