Several recent studies have found a low-carb (with some fat) approach to weight loss is more favorable than going low-fat. In fact, studies have shown low-carb diets have positive effects on blood pressure, cholesterol and other parameters associated with heart disease. Yet despite this fact, government bodies seem reluctant to endorse a low-carb way of living — instead choosing to regurgitate the same old mantra that a low-fat diet is the way to go.
In the first of two recent studies, subjects who were obese (but not diabetic and without cholesterol issues) were given an exercise routine and randomly placed on either a low-fat or low-carb diet. The low-carb diet group lost 10 pounds of weight sooner than the low-fat diet group did (just 45 days instead of 70 days) and similarly had no detectable impairment to vascular health — the subject’s circulatory systems worked just as well before the diet started and just as well as the low-fat group.
In the second study, 66 obese subjects were fed a high-fat meal, having their arterial stiffness and function of blood vessel cells measured before and four hours after eating. The researchers of that study concluded: “A high-fat meal did not worsen resistance vessel endothelial function whereas arterial stiffness was markedly reduced.” In other words, the cells lining the blood vessels didn’t change, while the stiffness of the arteries improved (which is a good thing when talking about heart health).
And Temple University researchers found a low-carb diet was actually better for cholesterol levels than a low-fat one. Subjects in the low-carb group raised their HDL (good) cholesterol levels by 23 per cent versus the low-fat, low-calorie group (which saw a rise of only 12 per cent). Both groups lost an average of 15 pounds after two years of dieting.
It seems every study that compares low-carb and low-fat diets shows low-carb diets are equally or more effective in promoting weight loss, improving markers of cardiovascular disease and more.
So why, then, do the newly released 2011 USDA dietary recommendations still promote a low-fat, high-carb way of living? Even the American Heart Association still gives the “heart healthy” stamp of approval to high-sugar foods like breakfast cereals and low-fat desserts while demonizing natural foods with high-fat content (think coconut oil).
It all leads one to believe perhaps government institutions aren’t reliable sources of nutritional information. It seems clear there exists a gaping disconnect between scientific research and the politics that lead to recommendations foisted upon the public.
To paraphrase one commenter on ABCnews.com‘s report on the studies: Every time a study comparing low-carb to low-fat diets is conducted, low-carb performs better than low-fat, yet the government bodies tell us otherwise.
It’s bordering on ridiculous that low-fat diets are still considered the default way to get healthy.
The Healthy Foodie is Doug DiPasquale, a Holistic Nutritionist and trained chef living in Toronto.