POPSUGAR shared that if you want to lose weight, what’s on your plate is often more important than the minutes you spend in the gym.
And if you want to see the most change, a 2015 study from Harvard says you should be cutting carbs, not fat.
For the study, published in PLoS One, researchers from Harvard and Brigham and Women’s Hospital reviewed 53 randomized trials of over 68,000 patients who had been assigned to either low-fat or low-carb diets. They found that low-carb diets were consistently better at helping patients lose weight than low-fat diets; the participants on the low-carb diets lost 2.5 pounds more than those on low-fat diets, with the average weight loss among all groups at about six pounds.
This latest study on the weight-loss benefits of a low-carb diet adds further evidence that if you want to lose weight, ditching bread — not olive oil — can help you see success. Another recent study, for example, showed that dieters who ate fewer than 40 grams of carbohydrates per day lost about eight pounds more than dieters who were put on a low-fat diet. Other studies have shown that high-carb diets may be the real heart-disease culprit, not saturated fat. All in all, this new review is a good reminder that if you want to lose weight, you should choose a diet rich in healthy fats, lean proteins, and fresh produce. Of course, not all fats are created equal. In the ongoing debate on whether fat is the enemy of waistlines and healthy hearts, an in-depth study may have the answer: if you want to lose weight and be healthier, opt for a low-carb diet over a low-fat one.
This 2014 study, funded by the National Institutes of Health in the Annals of Internal Medicine, followed 148 adults for a year; some were on a low-fat diet (less than 30 percent total fat, including less than seven percent saturated fat in their diets) and some were on a low-carb diet (less than 40 grams of carbohydrates per day — about the same amount of carbs in just one slice of bread!). Low-carb dieters ate high-protein foods like eggs for breakfast, tuna salad for lunch, and red meat, chicken, fish, pork, or tofu for dinner, along with vegetables. The low-fat group ate more grains and starches, along with vegetables as well.
At the end of the study, the low-carb dieters had lost more weight, including fat, than the low-fat group (about eight pounds more, on average). And even though the low-fat group did lose weight as well, they had lost more muscle mass than fat. Even more surprising: although the low-carb group ate twice the recommended daily amount of saturated fat as set by US guidelines — and increased their total fat intake to over 40 percent — they still had higher levels of HDL (the “good” cholesterol) and lower risk of heart disease than those who restricted their fat intake. This is an important finding, since higher cholesterol levels and a greater risk of heart disease have always been a major criticism of low-carb diets like Atkins or Dukan. “It’s impactful,” says registered dietitian Julie Upton about the study, although she notes that sticking to a low-carb diet for as long as the participants did can be hard for many. “Most people find very restricted low-carb diets hard to follow and they fall off the wagon,” she says.
That sticking to a lifestyle that shuns bread baskets and pasta dinners as actually good for you isn’t the best news to hear, but this new study does add more evidence that saturated fat may not be the diet evil that it’s been labeled as in the past. In fact, a recent review published in the same journal also confirmed that there’s no link between saturated fat and a higher risk of heart disease. The takeaway? Whether it’s olive oil, avocado, or a healthy cheese habit, the fat in your diet may be doing your body more good than those refined carbs.