Updated 19 October 2015

Low carb vs low fat diet – which is best for weight loss?

Whether your diet consists of high or low carbohydrates, you can still lose weight.

A person can lose weight irrespective of whether their diet consisted of high or low carbohydrates, according to the results of a study released this week.

The study was led by University of Stellenbosch senior researcher Celeste Naude and was published on Wednesday 9 July 2014 in the online medical journal, Plos One.

"Trials show weight loss in the short-term, irrespective of whether the diet is low CHO [Carbohydrate] or balanced in terms of its macronutrient composition," the researchers said.

It was conducted on people who are overweight, have diabetes, and other conditions such as hypertension.

Read: Carb and sugar addiction fuelling SA's obesity epidemic

Pregnant and breastfeeding women and individuals younger than 18 were excluded from the study.

Some widely promoted weight loss diets, such as the Atkins diet, recommended a regimen greatly restricting carbohydrates, with increased protein and unrestricted total and saturated fat intake, the researchers said.

"It is plausible that these low CHO diets could be harmful, especially over the longer term," according to the research.

"We therefore sought to determine whether low CHO diets have any beneficial or harmful effects on weight and cardiovascular risk factors when compared to balanced diets."

Read: The Association for Dietetics in SA discuss what this means for the general public

Prof. Tim Noakes supports low carb diet

University of Cape Town sport scientist Prof. Tim Noakes is one of those who encourages an LCHF diet (low carbohydrate and high fat).

He said the data analysed during the study was not representative of "the real world".

"I agree with their findings but the data they analysed are not representative of the real world," he told Sapa on Thursday.

"In the real world, the LCHF is the only diet that works. If their diet worked, we would not have an obesity crisis which began immediately after we were told to eat higher carbohydrate diets."

Read: Tim Noakes on carbohydrate intolerance

The findings did not attempt to show the benefit of the low carbohydrate diet, which is to reduce hunger, whereas low fat diets increase hunger and as a result are unsustainable in the long term, he said.

Naude said the study aims to educate by making scientific evidence available.

"People making decisions about following any diet should have reliable scientific information so that they are able to make a good and informed decision," she said on Thursday.

Read more:

We debate Tim Noakes on which diet will save the world
Health24's DietDoc looks at how omnivores gave mankind the edge
8 simple diet rules
The lowdown on low-carbs
Is your low-carb diet causing constipation?

Evidence for and against LCHF diets

Pro low carb diets:
What Tim Noakes eats
Tim Noakes diet is put to the test
Video: why a low-carb diet is good for you
A scheduled high-fat diet may curb obesity
Video: Tim Noakes talks about his book The Real Meal Revolution

Anti low carb diets
Pregnant moms on the high-fat diet may be putting their offspring's life at risk
Why a high-fat diet is bad for the body clock
A high-fat diet could up the risk of pancreatic cancer
High protein diets increase your chances of developing kidney disease
DietDoc asks: why are we always chasing quick-fix diets?
Warning issued regarding HFLC and high protein diets


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