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Low-Carb Diets Better in the Short Term for Weight Reduction

Posted on Dec. 27, 2016, 6 a.m. in Weight and Obesity Diet

Mayo Clinic researchers reviewed low-carb diet studies, to determine if they are safe and effective for weight loss, cardiovascular and metabolic health.

The overabundance of weight loss diets on the market can be very confusing, so physicians at the Mayo Clinic studied weight loss diets of the low-carb variety. They concluded that these diets are better than the traditional low-fat diets, but only for short term gain. Diets such as Atkins, South Beach, Ketogenic, and Paleo are low in carbohydrates, but researchers were interested in finding out which are most effective and safe for weight loss, as well as metabolic and cardiovascular health. The study was published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.  

Carbohydrate Restriction Increases Cravings for Protein

Carbohydrates consumption in western diets typically comprises over 50 percent of the daily calories. By definition, low carb diets should comprise less than 45 percent carbohydrates, but of all the diets reviewed they had anywhere between 4 to 46 percent carbs. This was surprising because all these diets are based on carbohydrate restriction. This disparity made the research difficult to follow.

Of the 41 trials conducted, participants lost 2.5 to 9 pounds more than those following a low-fat diet. The study concluded that low-carb diets were effective in the short term of some weight reduction with no adverse health effects such as on blood pressure. However, this weight loss is small compared to low-fat diets, and experts encourage people who follow low carb diets to avoid processed meat such as deli meats, bacon, hot dogs, and ham as examples. This is because people begin to crave meat when carbs are restricted. They caution that the consumption of processed meat could increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Patients considering this type of diet are to keep in mind that there is no long-term data on health effects in regards to low-carb diets.

Success With Weight Loss Depends on Dieter's Motivation

Many of the studies reviewed by the Mayo Clinic reached broad conclusions on the types of weight loss including fat, water, or muscle. Patients were often asked to recall the food they consumed, which proved difficult to verify and was prone to errors. Whether a person is successful or not with weight loss is subject to many factors including genetics, and the individual's ability to choose a diet and stick with it. Dieters must stay motivated by being satisfied with whatever weight loss they achieve. For many dieters, low-carb diets are the answer to fast and significant weight loss.

It is important to take note that studies reveal low-fat diets after six months are about the same as low-carb diets in terms of overall weight loss. But for dieters, studies show that low-carb diets are good for helping to reduce blood sugar and to manage insulin resistance. The researchers noted that there are tradeoffs with either diet plan.

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Are low-carbohydrate diets safe and effective, Helen Fields, M.D. et al., The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, doi: 10.7556/jaoa.2016.154, published online December 2016.

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