diets get some vindication: Two new studies show faster
weight loss over the short term
The studies, published in the journal Annals of Internal
Medicine, showed that the meat- and fat-rich regimen
caused faster weight loss in the short term than a conventional
More important - because many had feared that the diet, even
if slimming, might unfavorably affect cholesterol levels and
be bad for the heart - the low-carb regimen
also seemed to improve the dieters' blood fat profiles.
The weight-loss regimen popularized by the late Dr. Robert Atkins
- rich in meat, eggs and cheese but almost bereft of grains,
potatoes and fruit - is highly popular but had not been tested
in a scientifically rigorous way until last year, when two studies
reported that very obese and moderately obese people lost more
weight initially on the Atkins diet than on a conventional diet.
Last month, the scientists reported that after one year, individuals
on the Atkins-style diet largely kept the weight off but did
not continue to lose more weight. The low-fat group continued
to lose weight slowly over the course of the year.
Total weight loss for both groups over the year was slight:
an average of 11 to 19 pounds for the low-carb group and seven
to 19 pounds for the low-fat group.
Weight loss wasn't the only effect of these diets. Both studies
found that levels of triglycerides - blood fats that are risk
factors for heart disease - fell further in the low-carb group
than in the low-fat group. Levels of HDL, or "good"
cholesterol, also appeared to improve more in the low-carb group.
Low-carbohydrate diets are richer in protein and fat, which
have the effect of making a person feel full more rapidly. That
means they'll eat fewer calories.
Not only that, but people following an Atkins-style diet have
many more food restrictions, which could also slash the number
of calories they consume.
These very restrictions could make it harder to stay with the
diet over the longer haul - and might easily be the reason why
patients on low-carb diets eventually stopped losing weight,
while low-fat dieters continued to lose.