Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Low Fat v. Low Carb. Is the truth finally out?

The Annals of Internal Medicine published study results which say the weight loss results of study participants on the low fat and low carb diet were essentially the same. This is good news. And this is not good news.

The facts:
  • Participants were age 18 to 65 years
  • BMI was between 30 to 40 (all participants were considered obese)
  • People with serious medical issues (i.e., type-2 diabetes) and those with blood pressure over 140/90 were excluded
  • The study ran for 2 years
  • Low carb dieters consumed 20 grams of carbs for the first 12 weeks and then gradually added carbs until their weight was stable
  • Low fat dieters were limited to 1200 to 1800 calories a day with 55% of calories from carbohydrate, 30% from fat, and 15% from protein
  • All participants received in-person, group behavioral treatment each week for 20 weeks, the bi-weekly for 20 weeks, and then every other month for the remainder of the 2 year study
  • All participants were prescribed the same amount of exercise:
    • Primarily walking beginning at week 4; 4 sessions of 20 minutes each by week
    • By week 19, they were doing 4 sessions of 50 minutes each week
  • All participants received in-person, group behavioral treatment to include self-monitoring, stimulus control and relapse management
    • Weekly for 20 weeks
    • Every other week for 20 weeks
    • Every other month for the remaining two years
  • Participants were instructed to keep food and activity logs which were reviewed during the group sessions
This is good news because the study shows a rationale approach to weight loss which combines calorie restriction with exercise brings results. The is not good news because the study results will be used to push low carb and low fat diets instead of focusing on the real facts.

The low fat moniker has gotten a great number of people in real trouble. Some people will believe if something says "LOW FAT" on the package they can eat as much of it as they want. The reality of the success of this study is clear. Any person with a BMI between 30 and 40 (who is otherwise healthy with no medical issues) who limits their calorie intake to 1200 to 1800 calories a day and exercises for 200 minutes each week will lose weight. It almost doesn't matter what they are eating. Of course, eating whole, natural, organic and non-processed food is best. 

It will take next to no time for the people who sell both low carb and low fat diet plans to say they are proven as evidenced by a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Please don't be fooled by the flashy headlines. Doing the right thing, day after day, one step at a time, is your best way to achieve weight loss and long term wellness.What is the right thing? Exercise each day, eat whole, natural foods and spend your time doing things you love. 

It is not hard. It is not rocket science. And, yes, anyone can do it. 

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