This week’s research study in Cell Metabolism examined this question and came up with an answer: low-fat.
So is that the end of the story? What did this study involve and can we apply it to our day-to-day lives? And do we really need to continually label our diets as such?
This study examined only 19 participants and had them eating either a low-fat or low carb diet in a controlled chamber for 2 separate 2-week periods. On each visit they maintained a controlled “balanced diet” for 5 days and then for the remaining 9 days they followed either the prescribed low-fat or low carb regimen.
For the last 5 days of each period the participants’ metabolisms were closely measured for fat utilization. They concluded that the low-fat diet utilized more calories/fat than the low carb regimen.
Although this type of experiment is useful due to the controls how practical is it? Can we really extrapolate our lifestyles from a 10-day experiment on 19 individuals?
When I looked closer at the raw details, the 2 diets were matched in calories, and protein. The switch of course was the low-fat diet had 352 grams of carbs and 17 grams of fat, and the low carb diet had 140 grams of carbs and 108 grams of fat.
Neither of these regimens is all that useful in the real world.
Consuming 17 grams of fat over time could lead to essential fatty acid deficiency and basically adding no fat to your food and focusing on no fat products which we know are full of carbs and sugar. This amount of carbs is going in the opposite direction recommended for those with insulin resistance and diabetes.
Although a low-fat diet could yield results in the short-term, maintaining it is not easy or recommended due to the need for fat in the diet in the long term.
The low carb diet was not all that low in carbs, which may have led to the demise in this experiment. With carb intolerance and insulin resistance research indicates consuming more than 25-30 grams in a 4-hour period will increase insulin levels, thus negating fat utilization. This experiment used approximately 40-50 grams per meal, which is more than recommended with carb intolerance.
The real take home message?
It’s individual based on your metabolism, family history, and lifestyle. Look at your blood work, experiment with what combinations of food satisfy you hunger, increase your energy, and lead to an overall sense of health and well-being.
Although it’s tempting to label your diet, in the end it’s really the research experiment you do on yourself and a diet you can best maintain. That answer is what leads to the happy ending to your nutrition story.