They both work: New study says low-fat and low-carb diets are equally effective for weight loss; just choose one
03/12/2018 // Frances Bloomfield // Views

Many people say that the best way to lose weight is to go on a low-carbohydrate diet. Others are solidly in the camp of low-fat equaling weight loss. In an effort to uncover which of the two was the superior diet, researchers from Stanford Medicine undertook a year-long study wherein 609 participants (half of whom were men, the other half women) were placed on either a low-carbohydrate or low-fat diet. Through this, they discovered that it made little difference: both diets were effective at shedding the extra pounds in the same amounts.

Prior to the study, the participants were put through two different activities. In the first, the researchers sequenced a portion of the participants' genomes to look for protein-producing genes that influenced fat or carbohydrate metabolism. In the second activity, each participant was given a drink of glucose on an empty stomach so that their insulin outputs could be measured.

As for the study itself, published in JAMA, participants were tasked with limiting their daily carbohydrate or fat intake to only 20 g within the first eight weeks. The researchers then asked each of the volunteers to increase their fat or carbohydrate intake by five to 15 g by the second month. This was so that they could reach a balance of fats or carbohydrates that could be maintained well after the study concluded. Come 12 months, those on a low-fat diet were able to cut their daily fat intake from an average of 87 g to 57 g a day; those on a low-carbohydrate diet reduced their daily carbohydrate intake from an average of 247 g to 132 g per day.


About 20 percent of the study population had dropped out due to circumstances beyond their control. Those who did remain, however, exhibited largely positive results. Participants from both groups lost an average 13 lbs by the end of the study. Although some had gained almost 20 lbs, many more had lost nearly 60 lbs.

Thus, according to the researchers, both diets could be effective for weight loss so long as they followed the same set of rules. These rules being consuming more vegetables and whole foods while also curbing sugar and refined flour intake. "On both sides, we heard from people who had lost the most weight that we had helped them change their relationship to food, and that now they were more thoughtful about how they ate," said lead study author, Dr. Christopher Gardner. (Related: Woman loses over 30 pounds with raw fruit and vegetable diet.)

He added: "This study closes the door on some questions — but it opens the door to others. We have gobs of data that we can use in secondary, exploratory studies." One of these studies will be look into how epigenetics could play a role in how much weight an individual loses while dieting.

"I feel like we owe it to Americans to be smarter than to just say 'eat less.' I still think there is an opportunity to discover some personalization to it — now we just need to work on tying the pieces together," stated Gardner.

How to find the best diet for you

Simply put, there is no easy way to find out which diet will help you meet your weight loss goals. Yoni Freedhoff, an obesity doctor, explained that it will ultimately depend on you finding a diet that you can stick to for the long term. Lots of trial and error will be involved since it's near impossible to predict how your body will react to a certain diet. "One person's best diet is another person's worst," Freedhoff told

Go to to read up on more tips, tricks, and guides on eating better and healthier.

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