A February 2018 study found that cutting carbs or forgoing fats shaves off extra weight in the same proportion. The research, published in JAMA, analyzed hundreds of participants instructed to follow either a low-carb or low-fat diet for a year. On average, participants lost about 13 pounds afterward, but there was some variability; some folks dropped about 60 pounds and others gained 20. Along with not finding a clear “winner,” the study also did not find that a person’s insulin levels or genetics played a role in his or her success on either specific diet.
“We’ve all heard stories of a friend who went on one diet — it worked great — and then another friend tried the same diet, and it didn’t work at all,” said lead author Christopher Gardner, PhD, in a press release. “It’s because we’re all very different, and we’re just starting to understand the reasons for this diversity. Maybe we shouldn’t be asking what’s the best diet, but what’s the best diet for whom?” Dr. Gardner emphasized that it was key that both diets in the study were “healthy” diets. Remember: Always talk to your doctor before starting any kind of new diet, especially if you have any health conditions such as diabetes or heart disease.
What is a healthy low-carb diet?
The most basic definition of a low-carb diet is that it limits carbohydrates — found in grains, starchy vegetables like potatoes, and fruits — and emphasizes foods high in protein and fat. Though most people follow a low-carb diet with the intent of losing weight, some people that try it out to attempt to cut their risk for type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Generally, healthy low-carb diets emphasize lean protein — such as fish, poultry, and legumes — and healthy fats — such as avocados, nuts, and seeds. Some unprocessed carbs — such as whole grains, vegetables, and fruits — may also be included, depending on how restrictive the low-carb diet is for a specific person. It’s worth noting that just because a food is low-carb doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s healthy; for example, animal lard is low-carb. It’s also important to remember that healthy low-carb does not mean no-carb; some extremely restrictive low-carb diets might not provide necessary nutrients and could lead to serious health problems.