New Study Weighs in on Low-Carb vs. Low-Fat Diets


In the age-old battle between low-carb diets and low-fat diets, a new study says low-carb diets may be the winner. Not only do they have an advantage when it comes to weight loss, but the study says these diets are also safe overall for short-term practice.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, suggests that low-carb diets, which include Atkins, South Beach and the Paleo regime, are safe to practice up to six months. Participants who used different varieties of low-carb diets lost between two and a half to nearly nine pounds, which was more than those who were on low-fat diets.

“The best conclusion to draw is that adhering to a short-term low-carb diet appears to be safe and may be associated with weight reduction,” said Dr. Heather Fields, MD, an internal medicine physician at Mayo Clinic in Arizona and lead researcher on this study.

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However, the weight loss ratio for people on low-carb diets was a slight one, so physicians also recommend that people continue to choose an overall healthy diet filled with natural fresh foods over processed ones.

“The weight loss is small and of questionable clinical significance in comparison to low-fat diets,” Field said. “We encourage patient to eat real food and avoid highly processed foods, especially processed meats, such as bacon, sausage, deli meats, hot dogs, and ham when following any particular diet.”

Low-Carb Diets Push Meat Consumption

Dr. Fields analyzed data for over a decade that included research examining the adverse effects of low-carb diets and their safety. Restrictive carbohydrate diets are known for promoting eating more meat in one’s meals. So people should engage them in moderation, because eating meats excessively has been linked heart health issues and increased cancer risks.

The study found that short term engagement in low-carb diets did result in weight loss without negative effects on blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol, in comparison with other diets.

However, Fields believes some caution should be exercised when considering this research.

“Physicians must keep in mind that the literature is surprisingly limited, considering the popularity of these diets and the claims of health benefits in the public press,” said Fields. “Our review found no safety issues identified in the current literature, but patients considering LCDs [low-carb diets] should be advised there is very little data on long-term safety and efficacy.”

Find the Dietary Approach That Works for You

Carbohydrates are a necessary mainstay of healthy American diets. Dr. Tiffany Lowe-Payne, DO, an osteopathic family physician, says that, after half a year, the weight loss of those taking part in low-carb diets levels off to virtually the same ratio as those who engage in low-fat diets. So it’s necessary for people to find the diet system or practice that works for them based on their health, personal history and commitment level.

“As an osteopathic physician, I tell patients there is no one size fits all approach for health,” says Lowe-Payne. “Factors like the patient’s genetics and personal history should be considered, along with the diet programs they’ve tried before and, most importantly, their ability to stick to them.”

Despite the limitations of the study, the research shows that when practiced in short term moderation, low-carb diets still offer a safe, healthy and temporary weight-loss solution.

“When you think of what dieters want — and what they need to stay motivated — it is the satisfaction of results. They want to see significant weight loss and fast. For many, a low-carb lifestyle provides the answer they are looking for,” Dr. Lowe-Payne explained.


Ronke Idowu Reeves

Ronke Idowu Reeves is a writer and journalist who hails from Brooklyn, NY. Her news and entertainment stories have appeared on WABC-TV-New York, Fox News Channel, VH1, plus in Sundance Film Festival’s Sundance Daily Insider and People Magazine.