Do Low-Carb and Low-Fat Diets Yield the Same Results?


When it comes to losing weight, the debate between low-carb and high-carb supporters is as old as the universe itself. There are many schools of thought which believe that cutting down on carbs is the best method to follow for fat loss, whereas other experts argue that it’s actually the fat in your diet which is the culprit behind your expanding waist. So, who is speaking the truth? Both and neither.

Weight Loss: Easier said than done

Simply put, how often do you set long term goals but then end up dropping them altogether over the course of just a few weeks? Exactly. Putting on weight is easy but shedding the excess weight is a tough undertaking that requires commitment, courage, and hard work  and can be challenging and stressful but equally rewarding if done right.

When it comes to a weight loss regimen, currently it seems everyone is aboard the low-carb hype train and the trends usually fluctuate between low-carb diets and low-fat ones with experts changing their preferences depending on what day of the week it is.

It is very popularly theorized that low-carb meals yield the best results when it comes to losing fat because they reduce the levels of insulin in the body, leading to more fat being released by the fat tissue itself, but this theory has been disproved by a study conducted by the NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

A low-fat diet helps in preventing weight gain due to its reduced amount of calories

What Does Research Suggest?

In a recent study conducted by Stanford University that involved more than 600 participants and cost more than $10 million, researchers monitored and compared the effects of a low-fat diet against a low-carb one over a period of one year. The participants were classified into two groups and instructed to limit their daily intake of either fat or carbs to 20g for the period of the first two months with the freedom to choose levels of carbs or fat restrictions that they could maintain for the remaining period of ten months and beyond.

This would ensure that the participants would not be continuously hungry and could fulfill their dietary needs whilst also helping to encourage them to stick to their diet plans in the long term after the study was concluded.

This freedom of choice meant that by the third month of the study, the low-fat group averaged a consumption of 42g of daily fat whereas the low-carb group had an average consumption of 97g of carbs daily.

Following a complete year of dieting, it was found that the participants adhering to a low-carb diet lost 6kg of body weight whereas those adhering to a low-fat diet lost 5.3kg. The weight losses were deemed to be effectively the same and the 0.7kg difference between the two was deemed to be statistically extraneous since it could be attributed to various underlying factors.

According to the findings of this study, there was conclusive evidence that there was little to no difference between sticking to either a low-carb or low-fat diet in reality.

So, Carbs or Fat?

It is a common opinion that carbs make us fatter and thus limiting the intake of them should in theory have the opposite effect. So, low-carb dieters should see the biggest gains, right? Well if we take into account the dietary habits of different cultures for some proof, one of example of this can be the native residents of Papua New Guinea, the Kitavans who have been following high carb diets consisting of more than 200g of daily carbohydrates intake for hundreds of years yet there were almost no overweight people in their community over this period, which might help disprove the theory that carbs are instrumental in weight gain.

If we take into account the study that was carried out by Stanford University, it is worth noting that whether the participants were following a low-fat diet or a low-carb one, they were strongly advised to limit their calorie intake and junk food consumption with more emphasis put on whole foods that are not processed.

So, if there is one takeaway from this study, it is not the adherence to low-carb or low-fat diets that will eventually help you lose weight but your commitment to stay away from junk and unhealthy processed food.