The debate on the best diet to promote weight loss and cardiovascular health has been raging for decades, from Atkins, to the low-fat craze, to vegan, Paleo and beyond. Everyone’s got a different opinion and the issue of fat is an especially divisive matter.
Earlier this year, The New York Times published Mark Bittman’s controversial article, declaring "Butter Is Back” and igniting a stream of debate on the role of fat in our diets. Historically, high-fat diets have been associated not only with weight gain but also with increased risk of heart disease.
But now, a new study is sure to add fuel to the flames. Funded by the National Institutes of Health and published today in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the studyfound that when a group of adults was placed on either a low-carb or a low-fat diet, those on the low-carb diet not only lost more weight, but also improved their cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Researchers followed 148 obese men and women between the ages of 22 and 75 with no history of heart disease or diabetes. The participants were placed on one of two diets: a low carb-diet or a low-fat diet.
Those placed on the low-carb diet were told to restrict their carbohydrate intake to 40 grams per day and were encouraged to eat mostly protein and fat. They were encouraged to eat more foods with unsaturated fats — such as fish and olive oil — but were also permitted to eat dairy and meat products.
Those placed on the low-fat diet were told to restrict their fat intake to 30% of their daily calories.
Significantly, neither group was told to limit their calorie intake or increase their physical activity.
After a year, those following a low-carb diet had lost 12 pounds. By contrast, those restricting their fat intake had lost only four pounds — and appeared to have lost more lean muscle and less body fat.
Even more shocking, those in the low-carb group not only saw an increase of good cholesterol, but also saw a decrease in a protein that is a marker for inflammation, as well as a decrease in triglyceride levels, which is associated with reduced risk for cardiovascular disease.
At the end of the day, this left the researchers to conclude that in the latest low-carb or low-fat smack down, there was a clear answer: results pointed at the low-carb diet as “more effective for weight loss and cardiovascular risk factor reduction than the low-fat diet,” according to the study.
So for now, you don't have to feel guilty about that extra smidge of coconut oil at all, and won't have to as long as fat still reigns supreme!