Study Shows Little Difference in Results between Low-Carb and Low-Fat Diets

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istockphoto - be well –The Boston Globe

Diets are never fun. Whether you’re giving up bagels or cheese (or god forbid both), weight loss always proves to be a challenge. However, a study released by JAMA this week not only finds that all diets show results, but that people should pursue the method that is easiest for them.

The analysis involved nearly 50 clinical trials composed of about 7,300 individuals. Bradley C. Johnston, a Ph.D at the Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute in Toronto and colleagues conducted this meta-analysis to assess the relative effectiveness of different popular diets that promote weight loss. The team selected studies in which overweight to obese adults were randomized and given a diet to follow for a three-month period or longer. The results showed that both low-carbohydrate and low-fat diets revealed significant weight loss, but with little difference between various programs.


Dr. Michael Dansinger, Director of Lifestyle Coaching for Diabetes and Weight Loss at Tufts Medical Center, has also done multiple research studies in this area. He agrees that all the different eating strategies have value and limitations.

“It’s like colors of the rainbow – there is no best color but everyone has their favorite,’’ Dr. Dansinger said in an interview with “It has to match people’s preferences.’’

At the end of the meta-analysis the authors concluded that there is no one-size-fits-all dietary method, and those looking to diet should choose the method that presents the least personal challenges. Overall, researchers found that consistency leads to the largest weight loss over time.

Kathy McManus, a dietitian nutritionist and Director of Nutrition at Brigham and Women’s Hospital has also conducted studies in this field. She found consistency to be the underlying factor as well.

“We looked at four different approaches to losing weight,’’ she said to when referencing her research at Brigham and Women’s. “All of the different diets lost weight. What was most important was that the participants stayed engaged and participated consistently. You have to stay engaged and stay accountable.’’

Yet, although the differences in weight loss found in the study were minimal, Dr. Dansinger points out that there are other factors to consider. Most importantly, medical factors.


“Some diets are better than others for decreasing heart disease risk factors,’’ Dr. Dansinger said. “It’s useful to consider that all of them can work for weight loss, but some might be better for diabetes or lowering cholesterol.’’

Both Dr. Dansinger and McManus agree that technology has helped people stay accountable and watch what they consume to pursue the ideal healthy lifestyle.

“Tracking, whether that’s on an iPhone or written down, but tracking what you eat and how you move supports weight loss,’’ McManus said. She adds that thinking about those behaviors helps support a healthy weight.

Overall, the nutritionists we spoke with regarding this study were optimistic about the results.

“This did underscore that there can be many different approaches to weight loss for individuals,’’ McManus said. “The thing that is important about this study is that it gives encouragement to keep trying.’’

The good news? There isn’t one specific diet that you have to stick to. If you need to keep bagels in your life, there are other ways to lose weight. The bad news? You’re going to have to make some changes and put in some effort to see results.

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