Diet Wars: Low-carb or Low-fat?
By Mellanie Hills
Reprinted from Women in Technology International
The diet controversy continues. Should you go low-carb or low-fat?
Continuing to defy conventional wisdom, two new research studies showed that low-carb diets result in more weight loss over the first six months than do low-fat diets, though after 12 months the losses equalize. Being overweight is a significant health risk, so either diet will reduce your overall risk.
A couple of caveats: Participants in both studies ate mostly meats and vegetables, with very little processed food, so having a diet high in convenience foods may yield very different results. All the new low-carb products, from companies such as Coca-Cola and Nestle, haven't been factored into the low-carb studies yet. In addition, low-fat dieters limited themselves to 30% or fewer calories from fats, which could be slightly on the high side for dieting and may explain the slower weight loss.
Low-carb dieters also reaped heart-healthy benefits from lowered triglyceride levels and higher levels of good (HDL) cholesterol. However, the impact on the bad (LDL) cholesterol was scary-- low-carb dieters saw increased LDL levels, up to 10%, while low-fat dieters saw decreases.
Recent research indicates that you should get your LDL as low as it will go to lessen your heart disease risk. Because of the impact on LDL, if you have heart risk factors, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure, you should only pursue a low-carb diet under doctor's supervision. In the meantime, the Atkins diet is being revised to recommend limiting consumption of meat, cheese, and dairy, making it lower in fat, potentially decreasing the impact on LDL.
In spite of good results from low-carb diets, doctors continue to express reservations about the long-term impact of a low-carb diet since insufficient intake of fiber and nutrients correlates with heart disease, cancer, and kidney problems. We just won't have the answers until ongoing studies are complete.
For some strange reason, I'm always going against the grain (no pun intended). For decades, I tended toward a low-carb diet by not eating breads or cereals, though I did get fiber from veggies. Breads and cereals seemed like such a waste of perfectly good calories, and since I limited my daily calories, I preferred to apply them elsewhere.
Now that I have heart disease, I've had to add back lots of grains to my new fat-free diet, just as the rest of the world has moved to low-carb. Did all those years of bunless burgers and breadless sandwiches have anything to do with my heart disease? Based on what doctors are saying about lack of fiber in low-carb diets putting you at risk of heart disease, it just possibly could be related.
Mellanie True Hills is The Health & Productivity Revitalizer. She coaches individuals to create healthy lifestyles, and works with organizations to create healthy, productive workplaces. View the video of Mellanie's speech to the WITI Network in Austin, Texas, including what you must know about heart disease.
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