A low-carb diet may not be the best for you after all

Illustration for article titled A low-carb diet may not be the best for you after all

If you're looking to lose weight, there are two major divided schools of thought. The first is that all calories are created equal, and as long as you use more energy than you take in, you'll do fine. The other is that our body handles and uses calories from different food sources in very different ways, so the actual makeup of what you're eating can have quite an influence on your weight loss.


Well, score another point in the latter category, because new research has shown that the type of food you eat could have a lot to do with your ability to keep the weight off. And surprisingly, a low-carb diet may not be the healthiest option, over all.

Top image: Mandy Jouan/Flickr.com

The research, published in the newest issue of JAMA, tracked the post weight-loss diet of a number of people with different eating regimes. One group of people were on a isocaloric low-fat diet (60% of energy from carbohydrate, 20% from fat, 20% from protein; high glycemic load). A second group ate a low–glycemic index diet (40% from carbohydrate, 40% from fat, and 20% from protein; moderate glycemic load). And a third set of people had a low-carb diet (10% from carbohydrate, 60% from fat, and 30% from protein; low glycemic load).

By measuring the subjects resting energy expenditure and total energy expenditure — how many calories you burn just by existing, and in general during a normal day, respectively — they found that the diets produced very different results.

What they found was that with the commonly recommended low-fat diet, you burned the least calories at rest, and the low-carbohydrates the most — a difference of around 250 calories. That's almost the number of calories in a Snickers bar, or around an hour of moderate exercise. However, they also found that low-carb diets have the unfortunate side-effect of potentially leading to insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease.

If you go on the low-GI diet, there's a benefit of around 130 calories per day compared to the low fat, which might just be enough to help you keep off the weight after you get it off for the first time. So it really does matter where your calories come from.


Dr Emilio Lizardo

One problem with all these studies is that it is much easier to stick to a low fat, high carbohydrate diet than a high fat, low carb diet because of calorie density. A gram of fat has 9 calories and a gram of carb has 4 so in order to get an equivalent number of calories you get to eat more than twice as much weight of carbs. You get to eat more food and feel more satisfied. If you get all your calories from fat you won't feel full and will eat more. Same reason water intake helps with any diet.