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Does a low-carb diet work for weight loss?

Monday March 8, 2021
Does a low-carb diet work for weight loss?

Yes, a low-carb diet works for weight loss, but before you throw out your apples, oatmeal, and granola bars (okay, that last one can probably go), there are some things you should know:

1) There is no "standard" definition of what actually constitutes a low-carb diet. The keto diet continues to be an extremely popular version of a low-carb diet. In addition to advocating a (very) high-fat diet, it requires one to limit carb intake to <20 - 50 g/d, depending on total energy needs. As a reference, a banana has about 30 g of total carbs. I like fat as much as the next person (I mean seriously, who doesn't LOVE fat???), but the keto diet, like other low-carb diets, tends to be hard to stick to long-term.

2) This brings me to the next point: in the short-term, low-carb diets are highly effective for weight loss (assuming you stick to it and follow the rules, of course). There is little debate about that. However, depending on the amount of carbs cut, these diets can be difficult to sustain. Studies conducted among overweight/obese individuals who have type 2 diabetes (a common population group for studying low-carb diets within the scientific community) show that low-carb diets generally cause weight loss during the first six months. But, within a year or so, weight is regained...and then some...Essentially, on average, subjects end up being heavier than where they started.

3). According to research, following a low-carb diet may make your body burn more energy than following a moderate-carb or high-carb diet...but, following a high-protein diet may make your body burn more energy than following a moderate-protein diet...but, following a low-fat diet may make you lose more actual body fat than following a low-carb diet...but...confused yet? Yeah, me too. Bottom line: there is a LOT of research out there looking at which macronutrient is "special," and you can find a study (or more) to back up whatever you want to say.

4) What is really going on? Lots of things. There are many, many factors involved, not just a singular macronutrient being "high" or "moderate" or "low." There's activity level, health status, muscle mass to fat mass ratio, microbiota composition (fancy for "the bacteria in your gut"), and, you guessed it...genetics! (Other stuff too but you get the picture.) While scientists are working hard to untangle this enormous knot, we do know a few things, such as:

-eat "real" food (what your great-grandparents ate);

-eat when you're hungry;

-move your body;

-get enough sleep;

-KNOW YOUR GENES!

So, yes, a low-carb diet can work for weight loss. But, so can a low-fat diet and a high-protein diet and a moderate protein (e.g. plant-based) diet and a high-carb diet (meaning fibrous whole-grain foods, not cake...sorry) and on and on...It just depends...If you're interested in learning more about carbs and body weight, check out our blog on whole grains and body weight. If you're interested in learning more about how your unique genetics can guide you in choosing foods and diets to maximize your weight loss efforts, well, that's why we're here.


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