Why Low-carb and Low-fat Diets Might Not Help You Lose More Weight

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You can quit counting macros, eliminating food groups, and worrying about how your DNA can affect your ability to lose weight.

The only factor that really makes a difference in weight loss is a balanced nutrition plan, according to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers set out to determine whether your DNA—specific genes and insulin levels—could complement different diets and spur greater weight loss.


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In the study, 609 adults ages 18-50 with a body mass index between 28 and 40 underwent genetic and insulin testing. The results exposed variations linked to how each person processed fats or carbs. Because of this, the researchers believed it would make some participants more likely to lose weight on a low-fat or low-carb diet. Therefore, participants were broken up into a low-carb and low-fat group.

In the first two months, dieters in each group were told to limit carbs or fats to 20g daily. After, they were allowed to increase their consumption to more manageable amounts for the remainder of the study. They also cut their daily caloric intake by about 500 calories.

Overall, weight loss averaged 13 pounds among men and women, regardless of genes, insulin levels, and/or diet type. However, some lost as much as 50-60 pounds.

Interestingly enough, those who lost the most weight didn’t do so by cutting macros. They simply stopped eating in front of the TV or in their cars. They ate with their families and began cooking at home, eating more wholesome whole foods.

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In short: Diet quality may be the most efficient way to help people lose weight and keep it off.

“I think one place we go wrong is telling people to figure out how many calories they eat and then telling them to cut back on 500 calories, which makes them miserable,” lead study author and director of nutrition studies at the Stanford Prevention Research Center Christopher D. Gardner said in a press release. “We really need to focus on that foundational diet, which is more vegetables, more whole foods, less added sugar and less refined grains.”

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