Table of Contents
Choose What Works: Research reveals low-carbohydrate diets are healthier and more effective for weight loss than low-fat diets.
There exists a variety of diets intended to help people lose weight and each diet specifies a plan or method for weight loss. Some of the more popular diet plans involve eating lower amounts of fat or fewer carbohydrates. Regardless of the diet chosen, the goal is to facilitate effective and safe weight reduction. Two of the most popular forms of diets are the low-fat and low-carbohydrate plans. There is considerable debate over the effectiveness and safety of these diet plans. Large amounts of research have been dedicated to these diets, and the bulk of this research reveals that low-carbohydrate diets are healthier and more effective for losing weight than low-fat diets. More than just losing weight, low-carb dieting eliminates the wrong foods from our diet and increases the right foods which makes it the best solution for our eating practices.
Low Carb vs. Low-Fat
To determine the efficacy of these two diets, researchers study three points of comparison. The first point of comparison between these diets is their effectiveness in weight loss. The low-fat diet typically works on the principle of consuming large amounts of lean meat and low-fat foods while only consuming moderate amounts of carbohydrates. The diet works on the principle of lowering caloric intake, thereby forcing the body to consume stored fat.
The low-carbohydrate diet works on a similar principle, but instead of reducing fat, the reduction of carbohydrates forces the body to burn fat for energy, causing weight loss. When following a low-carbohydrate diet, participants would refrain from most whole grains and other carbohydrate-rich foods. It should be stated that the form of carbohydrate diet being referred to involves reducing most simple carbohydrates, such as those based on sugar.
Low-carb Eating Will Reduce Weight
Low carb diets work at reducing weight. In the short-term they are even more effective than low-fat diets, and promote better more effective eating. Low cab diets are more effective at weight loss because they limit carbs, which means limiting foods that have poor quality carbs such as bread and sugary snacks. When you limit fat, you restrict a primary sources of energy, and though this seems rational since you are likely eating too much fat, you also end up reducing healthy fats found in fish, avocados, and other nutrient-rich foods. When you reduce carbs, this restriction is easier because there are many carbs that you simply don't need such as refined sugar.
Low-carb Eating is Safer Than Low-fat Dieting
The second issue of comparison between diets is the safety of the diets. The means for testing safety levels was to test body chemistry and look for abnormal levels of glucose, triglycerides, and cholesterol. One of the dangers of low-fat dieting is that propensity to create unusually high blood sugar. Low-fat diets do not directly cause elevations in blood sugar but they are often responsible indirectly by causing people to eat more refined carbs. Eating low-fat reduces the ability to gain energy from fat, and in response, you are more likely to eat carbs to gain energy. In contrast, people on a low-carbohydrate diet revealed reduced blood glucose levels as well as other positive changes. Many dieters experience lower serum triglycerides and healthier cholesterol ratios while participating in the low-carbohydrate diets.
Low-carbohydrate diets are capable of reducing problems such as cholesterol and high blood sugar levels. The conclusions reached by researchers were that the link between diets and health issues such as diabetes and heart disease could be significantly impacted by choice of weight loss diet. This was very important because low-carbohydrate diets could aid in the prevention of heart disease and diabetes. As well, the research showed that low-fat diets may significantly increase blood sugar levels in dieters and therefore may be unsafe for individuals prone to or having diabetes.
Low-carb Diets Satisfy
The third point of comparison with the diets was hunger satisfaction that the dieter felt while adhering to the diets. The measure of satisfaction is important because it shows whether the diet was able to be followed effectively. If a dieter is not satisfied, he or she will have an increased chance of discarding the plan or not following it by eating outside the defined parameters.
Low-fat dieters report having lower meal satisfaction. In contrast, low-carbohydrate dieters felt satisfied longer after eating. This fact shows that low-fat diets may be ineffective at maintaining and promoting weight loss since the majority of dieters fail due to lack of success or the ability to maintain the die due to hunger and dissatisfaction.
A Final Comparison of Low-fat & Low-Carb Eating
The comparison of low-fat and low-carbohydrate diets in accordance with these points forces one to question the healthiness of the low-fat diet in general. Simply speaking, because a diet allows one to lose weight does not make it a healthy diet. The fact that low-fat diets seem to increase blood sugar levels and do nothing to decrease cholesterol indicates that the diet may make one prone to diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. Typically, low-fat diets incorporate high levels of protein which has been shown to strain kidney function with waste removal. These factors significantly increase the risk of kidney disease and kidney failure.
In opposition, the benefits of a low-carbohydrate diet can be seen through the reduction in blood sugar levels and cholesterol. As well, there is another benefit which seems to stem from the reduction of nutrient-blocking foods such as breads and whole grains. Low-carbohydrate diets allow the body to better absorb minerals and antioxidants. The low-carbohydrate diet therefore allows the body to work more efficiently at digestion and nutrient absorption.
A wealth of research supports the benefits of a low-carb diet:
- Evidence suggests that a low-carb diet may facilitate faster weight loss than a low-fat diet and may assist in maintaining that weight loss.
- A study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicated that a well-planned low-carb diet could decrease certain risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
- Studies show that a moderately low-carb diet can be beneficial for heart health, provided the sources of protein and fat are healthy.
- A 20-year prospective study involving 82,802 women explored the connection between lower carbohydrate diets and heart disease, and another study examined the relationship between lower carbohydrate diets and diabetes risk.
- Women who followed low-carb diets rich in vegetable sources of fat or protein had a 30% lower risk of heart disease and about a 20% lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
- A balanced diet that substituted some carbohydrates with protein or fat was more effective at reducing blood pressure and “bad” LDL cholesterol than a balanced, higher-carbohydrate diet.
- Prior research provides strong evidence that patients on a ketogenic or very low carbohydrate diet lose weight faster than those on a more traditional low-fat diet or even a Mediterranean diet.
- A Tulane University study suggests a low-carb diet can improve unmedicated diabetics – lower bloog sugar for those at risk of diabetes.
The health benefits of low-carbohydrate diets, combined with their greater efficiency and satisfaction, suggest that these diets may hold the key to better health for millions of people. This form of dieting could help lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes, as well as improve the health of those currently suffering from these conditions. Not to mention, it could contribute to lowering obesity rates, which are directly linked to diet.
It’s important to note that not all carbohydrates are equal. While low-carb diets can be beneficial, the quality of the carbs we consume plays a significant role in our overall health.
Refined carbohydrates, such as those found in white bread, pastries, and sugary drinks, provide little to no nutritional value. These ‘empty calories’ lead to weight gain and other health issues like diabetes and heart disease while complex carbohydrates found in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are packed with nutrients and fiber. They are digested slowly, providing a steady release of energy and keeping you feeling full longer.
When following a low-carb diet, it’s not just about reducing your total carbohydrate intake; it’s also about choosing high-quality carbs. Eliminating or reducing poor quality carbs such as refined sugar is a good start. But it’s equally important to incorporate nutrient-dense, high-quality carbs into your diet to ensure you’re getting the essential nutrients your body needs.
Considerations Beyond Dieting
Comparing diets reveals a number of implications for health, most importantly, that diets are not equal. If diets are not equal, then this presupposes that there are diets that are superior. Too often, diets are viewed in terms of “whatever works” or “they are all the same,” and these thoughts are simply not true. There are important considerations with dieting, most notably that you are making a lifestyle change that will eliminate weight gain and promote health. This idea is not new, but those who commonly repeat this wisdom often fail to discuss the correct and incorrect methods of eating.
Yes, there are eating do’s and don’ts.
There are many rules for eating, far too many to list here, but from this discussion, you can glean that low-fat diets are a don’t. Why would you do something that has been shown to not work as well or is as sustainable as some other method? You shouldn’t, and by doing so, you enforce the wrong thinking about eating and diets in which you are trying to lose weight by restricting a nutrient the body needs. In contrast, correct eating, low-carb dieting (which should be called normal dieting), removes carbohydrates that serve no purpose, such as refined sugar, which carries no nutrient value and leads to issues such as diabetes.
You should think of refined sugar like nicotine, which has no medical or health value at all and only does harm.
Can you make low-fat diets work? Sure. You can make any diet work but this doesn’t mean it is sustainable or healthy. Wouldn’t it be more responsible and beneficial for your health to use the method we know efficiently works by eliminating the carbohydrates that are killing us?