Low fat diet plan improves mood compared to low carb

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Results of a new study show that a low fat diet plan for weight loss can have a positive impact on mood. When it comes to cutting calories, the new research shows that carbohydrate restriction indeed leads to weight loss, but in the long run losing weight by focusing on a low fat diet seems to improve mood.

The study, published November 9 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, compared the psychological effects of either a very–low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet to a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet among 106 study participants.


According to background information from the study, "Despite the consistency of official recommendations advocating a high -carbohydrate, low-fat, energy-restricted diet for obesity treatment, the obesity epidemic has led to widespread interest in alternative dietary patterns for weight management, including very low-carbohydrate 'ketogenic' diets that are typically high in protein and fat (particularly saturated fat). While recent clinical studies have shown that low-carbohydrate diets can be an effective alternative dietary approach for weight loss, their long-term effects on psychological function, including mood and cognition, have been poorly studied."

After one year, the average weight loss for each group was 30.2 pounds. Mood, well-being and cognitive function were periodically assessed during and after the study. Both groups had mood improvements after the first eight weeks that was sustained only in the group who followed a low fat diet. Mood improvement in the group consuming the very-low carbohydrate, high-fat diet returned to pre-diet baseline.

The authors write, "This outcome suggests that some aspects of the low-carbohydrate diet may have had detrimental effects on mood that, over the term of one year, negated any positive effects of weight loss." Plausible explanations include the difficulty adhering to a very-low carbohydrate food plan, or the effect on brain levels of serotonin from protein and fat intake.

Though more research is needed, the initial findings could help when choosing a sustainable, and potentially mood improving diet plan for weight loss. A low fat diet was found to improve mood, compared to a very low carbohydrate diet in the study.