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Low carb diet better than low fat diet for weight loss, good heart

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Reducing fat intake is the way to go for many people who try to lose weight and avoid cardiovascular diseases but doing the opposite apparently yields better results.

Findings of a new study suggest that people whose diet is low in carbohydrates and high in fat tend to lose more weight and have lower cardiovascular risks compared with people who adopt a low-fat diet.

For the study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine on Sept. 2, Lydia Bazzano, from the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans, and colleagues randomly assigned 148 obese individuals between 22 and 75 years old to either follow a low-carbohydrate diet or adopt a low-fat diet for one year. The participants were also told not to change their physical activities during the duration of the study.

Those who followed a low carb-diet consumed 30 percent of their daily calories in fat and were told not to consume more than 40 grams of digestible carbohydrates per day. The participants who followed a low-fat diet, on the other hand, were advised not to get more than 30 percent of their daily energy from fat. Participants in both groups also received the same nutritional counseling throughout the study period and the only difference between them was the proportion of carbohydrates and fat that they consume.

The researchers found that while participants in both groups had the same level of physical activities and consumed similar amounts of calories, those in the low-carb group lost more weight and body fat compared with those in the low-fat group. Those who avoided carbohydrates and consumed more fat lost about eight pounds more compared with the participants who limited their intake of fat.

Critics of low-carb diet contend that the diet could raise risks for elevated cholesterol levels and heart disease because dieters increase their intake of saturated fat by consuming more meat and dairy. The researchers, however, said that there was no increase in either total cholesterol or LDL cholesterol for the participants in both groups. They even found that low-carb dieters have lower levels of fat in their blood and they have lower scores on a measure used as a predictor for risks of stroke and heart attack.

"The low-carbohydrate diet was more effective for weight loss and cardiovascular risk factor reduction than the low-fat diet," the researchers wrote. "Restricting carbohydrate may be an option for persons seeking to lose weight and reduce cardiovascular risk factors."

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