Researchers compared low-carb diets to low-fat diets and measured each one’s risk of heart disease.
“This study shows if you are overweight and have cardiovascular disease risk factors and haven’t had success on other diets, certainly a low-carbohydrate diet is worth a try,” the lead author, Dr. Lydia Bazzano of Tulane University in New Orleans, told Business Insider.
In the study, 148 obese men and women were put on either low-fat or low-carb diets for one year.
The low-fat dieters were told to limit saturated fats, which can be found in butter, cheese and meat.
The low-carb participants were instructed to eat more fat and protein, but cut back on bad carbs such as white bread, sugary cereals and pastas.
At the end of the year, researchers found the participants in the low-carb group lost more weight and more body fat than the low-fat dieters. Also, the low-carb dieters had lower levels of fat circulating in their blood and had lower scores on a measure often used to predict the risk of a heart attack and stroke.
“I thought that was a very striking finding,” Bazzano said to Business Insider.
Bazzano notes that it is not yet clear why people on the low-carbohydrate diets lost more weight and had lower risk factors for heart disease after one year. Additionally, the study didn’t examine if the results would be the same after a longer period.
The bigger picture:
The study isn’t the last word on which diet is best, says Frank Hu, a nutrition researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health who was not involved in the study.
Hu told USA TODAY that diets can have different impacts on different people.
“It’s possible to have a healthy low-fat diet, one rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and whole grains, but not loaded with sugar and white bread, and also possible to have a healthy low-carb diet, one not loaded with bacon and sausage,” he says.
“What matters most is that the individual can stick to the diet over the long term.”