A study published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine compared the low-fat, low-carb and Mediterranean diets to determine which diet is the safest and most effective for weight loss.
Researchers at the Nuclear Research Center in Dimona, Israel, an isolated workplace with its own medical department, followed 322 moderately obese participants, 277 men and 45 women for two years.
The dieters were assigned to follow one of three types of diets — a low-fat diet, based on American Heart Association guidelines; a Mediterranean diet; or a low-carb diet, based on the Atkins diet plan, but instead of animal sources, the participants were counseled to choose vegetarian sources of fat and protein.
The low-fat diet restricted the number of calories and focused on low-fat grains, vegetables and fruits as sources for carbohydrates. The Mediterranean diet had similar calorie and fat restrictions, but emphasized poultry, fish, olive oil and nuts. The low-carb diet had no restriction on calories, but set a limit on the number of carbohydrates to 20 grams per day for the first two months, then gradually increased the limit to 120 grams per day for the duration of the study.
At the end of two years, researchers reported that the dieters lost an average of 12 pounds (5.5 kg) on the low-carbohydrate diet, 10 pounds (4.6 kg) on the Mediterranean diet, and 7.3pounds (3.3 kg) on the low-fat regimen. So the low-carb diet was the most effective in terms of fat loss.
The low-carb diet also proved to be superior with regards to the cholesterol profile, reducing the total cholesterol-to-good cholesterol ratio by as much as 20 percent, compared to just 16 percent in the Mediterranean diet and 12 percent in the low-fat diet.
This study has been getting a lot of attention in the media. And while there are some things I believe could have been done better, like actually following an Atkins low-carb approach and counseling the participants to choose animal sources of fat and protein, it’s good to see the low-carb approach finally getting some positive press!