The TRUTH about Low-Carb vs. High-Carb, High-Fat vs. Low-Fat

What happens when you compare the weight loss effectiveness of all the different diets out there?

  • Low-fat vs. Low-carb
  • High-carb vs. High-fat
  • Ultra low carb diets like the Atkins diet vs. vegan ultra high-carb diets like Ornish?

As a matter of fact, that study was recently done!

Here’s what they found:

“Significant weight loss was observed with any low-carbohydrate or low-fat diet. Weight loss differences between individual named diets were small. This supports the practice of recommending any diet that a patient will adhere to in order to lose weight.” [http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1900510]

Simply put, fat loss is not meaningfully related to the diet’s composition of macronutrients (carbohydrates vs. fats). And we know this from countless studies–and the gold standard of scientific evidence, literature reviews. Consider this:

  • “In a 4-year prospective study, weight gain was not significantly influenced by dietary composition but rather by total energy intake.” [http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/78/4/834S.full]
  • This study reviewed the literature on the weight loss effectiveness most popular diets and concluded: “Review of the literature suggests that weight loss is independent of diet composition. Energy restriction is the key variable associated with weight reduction in the short term.”[ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11320946]
  • One of the few long-term studies comparing the weight loss effects of low-carb and low-fat diets concluded: “There were no differences in weight, body composition, or bone mineral density between the groups at any time point.” [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2949959/]
  • A 2014 meta-analysis comparing the weight loss effects of various named diets (Atkins, Ornish, Zone, South Beach, etc) concluded: “Significant weight loss was observed with any low-carbohydrate or low-fat diet. Weight loss differences between individual named diets were small.”[ http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1900510]

In other words, the low-fat vs. low-carb macronutrient wars over the last 3 decades are a big heaping pile of B.S.!

We know that the crux of lasting fat loss is long-term dietary compliance and sustainability–not what the macronutrient content of the diet is.

As researcher George Bray states very plainly and directly “Weight loss is related to adherence to the diet, not to its macronutrient composition.”

[ http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/bray-review-of-gcbc.pdf]

This was the conclusion from the latest meta-analysis (review of the scientific studies) on the subject just published just a few weeks ago: “There is probably little or no difference in weight loss and changes in cardiovascular risk factors up to two years of follow-up when overweight and obese adults, with or without type 2 diabetes, are randomized to low CHO (low-carb) diets and Isoenergetic balance (higher carb diets that are equal in calories).”

In other words, looking at all these different studies that compared people on low-carb and higher carb diets, they were not able to detect any difference whatsoever in either health measures or fat loss.

This has been verified by countless studies and meta-analyses.

You can indeed become a “fat burner” by eating a low carb, high fat diet. Just don’t expect to lose any more BODY fat because of that!

Contrary to popular belief, burning fat for fuel is not some mystical state of physiology that scientists are still trying to figure out how to induce. Fat burning isn’t exactly some mysterious phenomenon that requires magical “fat burning” supplements and diets, or top secret “fat burning” exercises. Putting your body into chronic “fat burning” dominance is actually quite easy to do and is very straightforward. We can show you how to be a “fat burner” quite easily. Here is the amazing, secret recipe for becoming a fat burning machine:

Becoming a “fat burner” is as simple as getting rid of the carbohydrates in your diet and replacing them with fat calories.

So now you’re a “fat burner.” So what? What does that actually mean as far as benefits you can expect?

Precisely nothing!

You’ll just be burning the fat you’re eating—not burning off body fat—but you at least get the benefit of referring to yourself as a “fat burning machine”!

The simple fact is that for regular people, there is no scientific evidence that being a “fat burner” is superior for virtually anything.

  • Not health
  • Not vitality
  • Not energy levels
  • Not hormonal health
  • Not metabolic rate
  • Not endurance
  • Not high intensity physical activity
  • Not fat loss

As I outlined in my book “The Low Carb Myth,” there is simply no scientific evidence to suggest that low-carb diets are superior to higher carb diets of equal calories and protein content. The scientific evidence actually shows us that well-designed higher carbohydrate diets are as effective, and typically MORE effective, in every area from health to athletic performance to fat loss.

So yeah, you can make yourself into a “fat burner” by eating a very low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet. Just don’t expect to notice any health, performance, or fat loss benefits from doing so. If you’re like most people, all you’ll notice is that you feel run down, tired, anxious, and irritable most of the time, while your performance in exercise and athletics suffers.

The bottom line is this: Do not confuse “fat burning” with “body fat burning”—they are totally different things. Being a “carb burner” or “fat burner” has no relevance to how much body fat you lose.

We know that the crux of lasting fat loss is long-term dietary compliance and sustainability–not what the macronutrient content of the diet is.

If the goal is long-term, lasting, sustainable improvements in health or fat loss, it’s critically important to recognize that the more extreme the diet (the more it is heavily restrictive of one food group or another), the poorer compliance (i.e. sustainability) tends to be.

This means that any extreme low-fat or extreme low-carb diet initiative to combat obesity is laughable, since any similarly extreme dietary pattern that jettisons an entire macronutrient is simply unsustainable for the majority of people.

As obesity researcher Dr. Yoni Freedhoff states about low-carb diets: “Ultimately the issue I have got with this style of diet — the issue with all low-carb diets — is not that they can’t work or help but for the majority of people who go on them, it’s not sustainable.”

[ http://www.vox.com/2014/12/19/7416939/bulletproof-coffee]

For example, even in the major area where we do have good evidence of the effectiveness of very low carb ketogenic diets–with seizures–many people fail to sustain a ketogenic diet. (I also have heard from numerous clients with children who have epilepsy that I have suggested they try a ketogenic diet, and most report back that they were not able to adequately sustain it with one woman calling it a “nightmare” to even try to get her child to stick to it.) Other research has verified the low compliance rates on ketogenic diets:

  • “For this reason the ketogenic diet represents an interesting option but unfortunately suffers from a low compliance.”[ http://www.nutritionj.com/content/10/1/112]
  • “The ketogenic diet, a treatment for intractable epilepsy, is rarely initiated because it requires strict compliance with a diet that is perceived to be unpalatable.”[ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7592151]
  • According to WebMD: “Some parents of children with epilepsy are skeptical of the ketogenic diet when they first hear about it. A diet that can control epilepsy and stop seizures without any medication? It almost sounds like a scam. But the ketogenic diet is real and legitimate. It works very well in many people. The catch is that it’s extremely demanding and difficult to follow. In fact, it is so difficult to follow that most doctors recommend it only for people who haven’t been able to control their seizures with medicine.” [http://www.webmd.com/epilepsy/the-ketogenic-diet]
  • “Studies investigating the effectiveness of ketogenic diets are all observational based and focus on the patients that were compliant with the diet; however, most of these studies have large dropout rates. In the above meta-analysis, about half of the patients dropped out. Families primarily discontinued the diet due to the lack of improvement in seizure control.” [http://www.hindawi.com/journals/isrn/2012/263139/]

Because we know that sustainability–rather than some magical macronutrient ratio–is the crux of lasting fat loss, any dietary pattern that is found to be so unpleasant that it suffers very low compliance can be immediately ruled out as a real option for fat loss for the vast majority of people.

In the words of Freedhoff,

“Ultimately the best diet for you is the one you actually enjoy enough to keep living with, as merely tolerable diets won’t last.”

[ http://www.weightymatters.ca/2014/09/what-i-learned-by-actually-reading-that.html]
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