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Johns Hopkins Health Alert-The Low-Carb/Low-Fat Diet Debate

Posted Sep 03 2009 9:25am

If you have coronary heart disease and are overweight, you’ll want to try to drops those extra pounds through a regimen of regular physical exercise and a reduced-calorie diet. But which diet gives you the best chance of success: a low-carb or low-fat diet? Here’s advice from Johns Hopkins.

This is a good question — and the best answer may be “something in between.” Many studies have examined the low-carb/low-fat debate, typically showing that both approaches help people lose weight.

For example, a study in The New England Journal of Medicine found that of 322 obese adults, those on a low-carb diet lost 10 lbs over two years versus 6 lbs among those on a low-fat diet. While weight loss was greater with the low-carb diet, this eating plan can be high in saturated fat, which raises LDL cholesterol. This is particularly true if you take the bacon-and-eggs approach to low carb rather than choosing lower fat sources of protein, such as beans, nuts, and skinless poultry, as a substitute for carbohydrates.

So the most prudent diet may be one of moderation that is neither low fat nor low carb. In The New England Journal of Medicine study, a third group followed a Mediterranean diet — low in red meat and saturated fat but fairly high in healthy fats from olive oil and fish and containing carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables. This group lost just as much weight as the low-carb-diet group.

In fact, the American Heart Association now recommends a Mediterranean-style diet for heart health instead of a strictly low-fat diet. A low-carb diet is not recommended, as its long-term effects on the heart are unknown.

Posted in Heart Health on July 17, 20
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