Low Carbohydrate Diet Versus Low Fat Diet: Who Is The Winner?

A Major Study Demonstrated That Low Carbohydrate Diets Reduce of Heart Disease

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If you are still confused as to what type of  diet may be the best for you, then I urge you to look at this study. A clinical study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine evaluated  a low carbohydrate diet versus a low fat diet in a clinical trial. I will go on to describe the study itself, but the endpoint was that the study participants on the lower carbohydrate diets were able to lose more weight, had less cardiac risk and there was a significant decrease in the C-reactive protein levels in the low-carbohydrate diet group compared to the low fat diet group.

 

Basically the study involved approximately 150 individuals with no prior documented history of either heart disease or diabetes. Half of these individuals were placed on a low carbohydrate diet and half were placed on a low fat diet. They were followed over a period of 12 months. The participants were mostly female with an average in the mid 40s. The body mass index of both groups were over 30. 

Both groups had access to a nutritionist and met with that individual on a routine basis over the 12 month period. 

At the end of twelve months, the groups remained similar in terms of blood pressure and blood glucose levels. There were no significant changes in cholesterol levels.  What was interesting was that the low carbohydrate group had lowered their body weight as well as CRP levels and lower triglyceride levels when compared to their study counterparts. Their overall heart disease risk was significantly lower than their low fat diet counterparts.

 

How should we interpret the results study? I have a few comments. 

1) On other blog posts I had been ranting about understanding foods that have a high glycemic index. Foods with a high glycemic index stimulate insulin release. Many, if not all foods with  a high glycemic index, are in fact high carbohydrate foods. 

 There is another piece to this mechanism that may help explain the lowered CRP levels. Insulin resistance stimulates the inflammatory process. Recall that CRP levels are a way for clinicians to measure total body inflammation. Foods with a higher glycemic index stimulate the production of insulin far greater than a lower carbohydrate food. Insulin resistance can increase total body inflammation. Recall that elevated triglycerides and low HDL levels as well as increased CRP levels are part of the metabolic syndrome which confers a significant cardiovascular risk.

2) If you have heart disease or have risk factors for heart disease (including high blood pressure and diabetes), then you need to adjust your current diet even further. What does this mean? If you look at the traditional recommendations of the DASH diet, for example, it recommended servings of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. If you try to incorporate the results of the above study into a DASH diet plan the following (in my thought process) would need to be amended: including vegetables, fruits with a low glycemic index, and minimizing certain whole grains. Whole grains  higher on the glycemic index include wheat. Quinoa may  be a better choice of a whole grain with a lower glycemic index.

 Bottom line: all whole grains may not be created equal in this regard.

3) This article completely turns upside the traditional teaching for years about consuming a low fat diet. Servings of natural fats are recommended. Butter is seen to be superior to margarine. It does not mean to go nuts and eat a whole stick of butter. It does mean that your body does need cholesterol to function and that servings of fats may even be healthy for you in contrast to prior thinking. 

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