A new study suggests that people who follow low-fat diets may not get better results in terms of weight loss, compared with those who follow higher-fat diets that have the same number of calories.
Weight loss normally has one simple rule: burn more calories than you take in. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if the calorie intake is reduced by 500 calories to 1,000 calories per day, that may lead to a weight loss of one to two pounds (0.45 to 0.9 kilograms) weekly.
Dr. Deirdre Tobias, an instructor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, said that reducing fat may not be the best or more effective strategy for long-term weight loss. However, that does not mean low-fat diets are not healthier than higher-fat diets.
“[For weight loss] the focus needs to shift away from specific nutrients — carbs and fats — to a discussion of healthy foods and eating patterns,” Dr. Tobias said.
In the new study – published October 29 in the journal The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology – the researchers analysed 53 studies, which involved more than 68,000 adults.
They compared the average weight loss results among higher-fat diets, low-fat diets, low-carbohydrate diets, and no particular diet regime. The intensity of the diets was also taken into account.
The results of the analysis show that long-term effectiveness of low-fat diets is highly influenced by the intensity of the regime.
Although the findings suggest that low-fat diets are not better than the other diet regimes, people may still want to cut some fats from their diet and shift to healthier food choices to lose weight, according to Dr. Tobias.
It is unclear why higher-fat diets showed better results in the long-run. But people should know that some fats still remain unhealthy and must be cut out of diets.
Dr. Tobias says that people should include healthy food – that they like – in their weight-loss regimes to increase long-term adherence to the diets.
Dr. Kevin Hall, a senior investigator at the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland, said that the study highlights the problem that people have with diets, namely that they cannot stick to a diet over the long term and that they always go back to old habits.
It is important to understand why that is and why some people do well on specific diets and others do not, Dr. Hall added.
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