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Has Science Just Settled the “Low-Fat vs. Low-Carb” Debate for Weight Loss?

17

The Los Angeles Times says yes, and low-fat won—which will make some big advertisers happy. Unfortunately, the Times made a hash of the actual study. 

Here’s the headline: “For fat loss, low-fat diets beat low-carb diets handily, new research finds.” Unfortunately not a word of this is true. The article, which was published in the science section, should instead be under fiction. 

Let’s look more closely at the study, which was conducted by the National Institutes of Health. The researchers monitored two groups (one on a low-carb diet, one on a low-fat diet) under close clinical supervision for two weeks. This made it possible to know exactly what they ate. Both groups lost weight—and the low-carb group lost a pound more than the low-fat group.

What did the researchers do then? They decided to employ a much-abused technique, computer modeling, to estimate what would have happened if the experiment had continued for six months. They somehow concluded that the low-fat group, who lost less weight in the actual experiment, would have lost 6.5 pounds more body fat than the low-carb group. These rather bizarre (and openly manipulated) results led the study authors to conclude, “We can definitively reject the claim that carbohydrate restriction is required for body-fat loss.”

Note their statement: carbohydrate restriction is not required for weight loss. This is hardly news, and certainly doesn’t validate low-fat specifically over low-carb as a means of losing weight. Many diets can help people lose body fat, including extreme calorie restriction. But they made no mention of looking at which diets normalize insulin and blood sugar levels more quickly, lose body fat without the cravings associated with other approaches, or help people keep the weight off in the long-term—all of which lower-carb approaches do more effectively than other diets.

Moreover we have limited information about what the subjects actually ate. Somehow we doubt that the low-carb or low-fat meals they were given were comprised of the foods our integrative doctors or the most up-to-date nutritionists would advise.

The lack of any reference to “good” fats versus “bad” fats is a tip-off. All fats are far from the same. We need the good fats not only to thrive, but to burn off the bad fats. Today we know that even the fat deposits inside the body differ. Dr. David William’s last newsletter (Alternatives, August 2015) has a fascinating article about why we need more brown fat in order to control our white fat.

Even government bureaucrats are beginning to see that fat as a general category and cholesterol are not the problem. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recently admitted that “cholesterol is [no longer] considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.” And, although the agency’s methods are deeply flawed, the FDA is looking into giving consumers more information about the sugar content of food. This is because Americans eat not only too much sugar and other sweeteners, but also high-glycemic carbohydrates that resemble sugar.

Our concern with the mainstream media is, as always, their desperate kowtowing to Big Food and Big Pharma—their big advertisers. Was this LA Times article inspired by the need to keep happy advertisers like Coke, a company whose attempts to muddy the scientific record we discussed recently? Or did the reporter simply not look at the study? We don’t know.

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