Dr. Susan Roberts studied low-carb and low-fat diets for weight loss
What's the secret to losing weight and keeping it off over the long-term?
I've probably revealed the simple answer to that question a million times before at my blog--find the diet that's right for you, learn all you can about that particular plan to do it correctly, and then keep doing it for the rest of your life. Yes, I lost nearly 200 pounds on the Atkins low-carb diet and have been blogging about it for over two years, but I realize this way of eating is not for everyone.
Now this WebMD story highlights a new study that confirms this notion of discovering the customized plan that works for the individual. However, there are some aspects of this research I didn't think were fair to livin' la vida low-carb. I'll discuss my objections in just a moment.
Lead researcher Dr. Susan B. Roberts, Senior Scientist and Director of the Energy Metabolism Laboratory in the Jean Mayer USDA HNRCA at the Boston, MA-based Tufts University, and her fellow researchers wanted to try to settle the age-old question of which diet makeup is best for weight loss and weight maintenance.
The researchers observed 34 healthy, but overweight men and women who were placed on a calorie-restricted diet where their total caloric intake was cut by 30 percent. However, the study participants were split into one of two groups:
LOW-GLYCEMIC LOAD LOWER-CARB DIET (LG) or
HIGH-GLYCEMIC LOAD LOW-FAT DIET (HG)
The LG group avoided foods with sugar and starch, but still ate 40 percent of their calories as carbohydrates. The macronutrient breakdown of the fat and protein were 30 percent each. Interestingly, they call this a "low-carb" diet, but it's not low enough for most of us who are livin' la vida low-carb. This more closely resembles The Zone diet.
The HG group, on the other hand, ate 60 percent of their calories as carbohydrates while limiting their fat and protein to 20 percent each. This is what many would describe as the Standard American Diet (SAD). The researchers took great pains to try to match the foods in this group with the taste, appearance, and calorie counts of the LG group (yeah, good luck with that!).
Weekly shopping and cooking classes for each of the groups were provided with a dietitian (HOO BOY!) and the exact foods needed to do each diet were distributed to the study participants for the first six months of the study. Yet, after that they left them to their own devices to eat on their own for the second six months of the study. Uh-oh!
Over the one-year study, the study participants kept a food diary with the amount of calories and food that were consumed. The reseachers noticed that all of them "cheated" at some point in their plan. Furthermore, both the LG and HG groups lost statistically the same amount of weight and body fat regardless of the program they were following.
Of course, the opponents of low-carb use this as an excuse that people shouldn't do this diet since it's no better for weight loss after one year. But I see it differently.
Since both the low-fat and low-carb diet are shown to be equally effective after one year in this study, what that means is people have a choice about what is right for them. In other words, let's see both plans promoted alongside each other as options rather than just the low-fat diet.
But why can't these studies look at a truly ketogenic low-carb diet rather than this 40 percent carbs diet? That's way too many carbs for my blood. While it is certainly LOWER carb, it's not "low-carb" like many of us low-carbers would define it. I'd LOVE to see this same study conducted putting a third group of study participants in a VLG (very low-glycemic) group on a diet with even 20 percent carbs--HALF the amount in this study.
For Atkins dieters, it could even go as low as 10 percent or less carbohydrate daily along with upwards of 60 percent fat and THEN let's see what the weight loss difference between this REAL low-carb plan and the high-carb, low-fat diet. There would be no comparison in my eyes because the genuine low-carb diet would blow the competition out the water. Why would you want to squelch this kind of result from taking place, Dr. Roberts? Are you too afraid of what you KNOW will happen?
The fact is you DO get to enjoy delicious and nutritious foods when you are livin' la vida low-carb compared with a high-carb, low-fat diet. Nobody is gonna argue this point and nor should they. It's true and the low-fatties just need to get over it already.
I think they're jealous of us low-carb dieters because we eat good and lose weight, too. Sorry, but that's just a fact they're gonna have to live with. Say it with me now--that's just the way it is.
If you had to choose between the low-carb lifestyle or the high-carb, low-fat diet since both have been shown to bring about similar weight loss after one year, then it's a no-brainer which one most people would choose. Livin' la vida low-carb, of course!
The reseachers stated that people should find the diet right for them.
"The present results suggest that a broad range of healthy diets can successfully promote weight loss," they concluded.
Well, then what the heck are we waiting on?! Let's make it happen already and stop all the bashing of low-carb in the media and by the so-called health "experts." If the studies are showing low-carb and low-fat are equals, then the dietary recommendations should be immediately amended to include low-carb options alongside the low-fat ones.
This study was funded by the National Institute on Aging and the results appear in the April 2007 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Just like they did following the release of the Stanford study published in JAMA in March 2007 showing the Atkins diet is best for weight loss after one year, the researchers were skeptical of the results and tried to explain away the positive impact of low-carb in the study. Look at this quote from one of them.
"However, we did detect a greater tendency for weight and body-fat regain among low-glycemic-diet participants," the researcher remarked. "This finding suggests that reduced caloric intake may be harder to sustain on low-glycemic diets over time."
Sigh. Eating LESS calories is "harder to sustain" for people who are livin' la vida low-carb, eh? Did it ever occur to the researchers that many of us aren't paying any attention to calories anyway?
When you are eating a low-carb diet, you don't need to worry about calories, fat grams, and all those other things that the "diet" mentality make you obsess over. You simply live your life and let your weight manage itself. That's what I've been doing for the past 3 1/2 years and will keep doing for the rest of my long, happy, and healthy life.
I've now successfully maintained my weight since 2004 eating this way and I'm not micromanaging my calories or worrying about eating too much fat. That's the old way of thinking that frustrated me into getting obese to begin with. Why do we put these strict instructions on what people should be doing to maintain their weight loss that only makes the problem harder and harder to deal with? It boggles my mind!
There's no greater freedom than knowing I can eat yummy low-carb foods and STILL keep my weight in line. If I want a high-fat, high-protein steak to eat, then I can do it and keep my weight in check. How about a delicious spinach salad with salmon, sugar-free pickle relish, and fatty mayonnaise topped with cheese and full-fat Ranch dressing? Mmmm, now that's what I call living healthy baby! And my weight and health are NOT adversely impacted.
The point is this study confirms my belief that people can find what works for them and do it confidently knowing they can not just lose weight but keep it off forever. Whether it is low-fat or low-carb, I'll never squabble with anyone who can find the permanent solution to a lifelong problem. That's what livin' la vida low-carb has been for me and it can be your nutritional solace as well. GO FOR IT!!!
You can e-mail Dr. Susan Roberts about her study at firstname.lastname@example.org.