Eight years after the Atkins version of the low-carb diet hit the media, researchers are finding some results that surprise them. As a low-carber for the last eight years myself, I could not be more pleased. I love to see the new research replacing old assumptions.
A federally funded two year study led by Gary Foster, Ph.D., director of Temple University's Center for Obesity Research and Education is the largest study thus far of its kind. Research was done at three major medical centers in Denver, Philadelphia and St. Louis. The report was published in Annals of Internal Medicine.
The purpose of this multicenter clinical trial was first and foremost to look at weight loss. It also looked at such secondary issues as bone mineral density, cardiovascular risk factors
The two groups were made up of 307 adults, between 60 and 70 percent of them women, and about 70 percent of them white. Approximately 25 percent were obese but without diabetes or cholesterol problems.
The average age of participants was 45. The average body mass index was 36. Average weight was 227 lbs.
There was some attrition as a number of participants in the study dropped out during the two year period. About 58 percent of the low-carbers and 68 percent of the low-fat dieters stayed with it all the way through however.
One group ate a low-carb diet similar to the Atkins diet with carbohydrates being limited to 20 grams a day for the first 12 weeks. Carb intake increased by 5 grams a day each week.
There was no limit placed on amounts of fat and protein that this group could eat.
The other group ate a low-fat low-calorie diet restricted to 1200 - 1500 calories a day for the women and 1500 - 1800 calories a day for the men.
Carbohydrates made up 55 percent of their calories, fat was 30 percent and protein was 15 percent.
All participants in both groups attended sessions aimed at improving eating habits, becoming more physically active and support to stay with their diets.
In the first six months, the low-fat diet brought better reduction of LDL ("bad") cholesterol but this difference levelled off and there was no difference by the end of the study.