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Low Carb or Low Fat, Which Is the Best Diet?

Tim Boyer's picture
low carb diet

Everybody has their favorite—either low carb or low fat when it comes to dieting. But which really is the best diet? To help dieters make an informed decision about their weight loss efforts, Dr. Oz’s partner-in-health, Dr. Michael Roizen, recently made this analysis for U.S. News & World Report readers as summarized below:


Dr. Roizen points to a recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine that recommended that eating more red meat and fat over a low-carb diet leads to more weight loss and better cardiac variables than low-fat diets do.

In the study, Dr. Roizen tells readers that the results were gleaned from 148 obese, non-diabetics who were randomly allocated to receive either a “low-fat” or “low-carb” diet. The low-fat meant that less than 30 percent of their diet was fat with less than 7 percent of it consisting of saturated fat. The low-carb diet meant having less than 40 grams of carbs per day with the majority of the carbs being the typically recommended complex type.

Each of the study participants underwent multiple nutrition education and assessment sessions over during the year-long study period and were asked not to change the amount of their normal physical activity habits.

According to Dr. Roizen, the results of the study showed two key points:

1. The low-carb group lost about 12 pounds over the year and the low-fat group about 4 pounds with the low-carb group having better triglyceride and inflammation numbers.

2. The low-carb group ate about 90 calories a day less―almost exactly totaling to that 8 or so pound weight difference. However, they actually ate 30 percent of their calories as carbs, which is about 40 percent less than the “low-fat” group, and consumed about 40 percent of calories as fat versus 30 percent in the “low-fat” group.

So what does this mean?

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Dr. Roizen states that the key (and directly unanswered) question underlying the study’s results is this: Is the reason the low-carb group did better because they ate mainly complex carbs and fewer calories?

If this is true, then Dr. Roizen tells us that current dieting recommendations of choosing only healthy fats, and avoiding simple sugars and foods that rapidly turn into simple sugars is the correct course to follow when dieting.

He supports this recommendation with this important observation from his view of the study and what it really means to a dieter who is looking for a diet that helps you lose weight and is healthy:

Cutting out a big food group―such as all carbs or all fats―isn’t best for weight loss and wasn’t done in the study. For example, the low-fat group ate 30 percent fat and just 9 percent saturated fat; the low-carb group 40 percent fat and 13.4 percent saturated fat. The saturated fat totals of about 30 percent total fat is much less than the typical American diet. The low-fat group didn’t avoid all simple sugars. And we do not have long-term data on plaque (atherosclerosis or hardening of your arteries) or for health from these new data.

Dr. Roizen’s take on all of this is that the Annals of Internal Medicine study adds to the growing support that the best diet for weight loss (such as his Cleveland Clinic GO! Foods program) is one that avoids foods that easily and rapidly convert into simple sugars in your bloodstream. In particular, what he refers to as the "Five Food Felons": simple sugars, syrups and all simple carbs, along with aging (saturated and trans) fats.

Following this recommendation along with remembering to add some physical activity, stress management techniques and controlling your portion sizes will allow you to eat well and still lose weight.

For more about advice from Dr. Michael Roizen, here is an informative article about what he has to say about implementing Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet.

Image Source: Courtesy of PhotoBucket

Reference: U.S. News & World Report, Sept. 2014