Quick Fix Diets Debunked: Are low carb, low fat or high protein diets effective for weight loss?

Articles are always popping up online about the success of weight loss diets. One minute you read how great low-fat diets are, resulting in you shedding the pounds. Then the next minute the media is buzzing about Kim Kardashian following a low-carbohydrate diet. Recently, attention has been focused on the use of high protein diets to promote weight loss. The claim behind high-protein is that it increases satiety. Mixed messaging in the media on weight loss can get very confusing. Short term, quick fix diets have been the focus of research for the last few years, lacking consistent results. A recent review was completed at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada to deal with this issue.
To determine the effectiveness of diets with varying levels of carbs, fat and protein, researchers searched multiple databases for studies. Studies had to be at least 1 year to be considered. 11 studies with over 2000 healthy overweight participants were chosen for comparison. Almost all participants in the studies were females aged 22-50 years old. Studies had to examine the effects of at least two diets for weight loss: low-carb, low-fat, or high-protein. The length of the studies varied beyond 12 months. But get this – a majority of studies found no difference in long-term weight loss. Beyond 6 months it didn’t matter whether the participants were cutting carbs or noshing on more protein. Although it was clear that the diet make ups didn’t make an impact in the long-term, participants who followed a diet higher in protein saw greater loss in the shorter term.

As well, the diets with the lowest amounts of fat had the highest rate of people quitting the study. But before you start increasing your protein and fat consumption, there may be another component to consider. Even more important than fat and protein intake was how well the participants stuck to the guidelines for their prescribed diet. That’s right, it doesn’t really matter the make up within the norm, so long as you stick to your diet.

​Here are recommendations for weight loss based on these recent findings:

Weight Loss Requires Lifestyles Change
In order to prevent gaining the weight back, long-term changes in diet and activity are needed. When looking to lose weight you should focus on creating a supportive social and physical environment to assist in the long-term lifestyle changes. Being active can be fun and help you with your efforts.

Adjusting Macronutrient Composition in the Short-term
A possible strategy to increase your motivation and stick to your change is to alter diet composition initially. This is a way to ensure you see results at the onset of treatment and stick with it.

Consider the Palatability of the Diet
If you hate the weight loss dietary changes, chances are you probably won’t be sticking to them very long. As the diets with the lowest fat content had the highest dropout, making sure you get your healthy fats in is important. Healthy fats include olive oil, nuts and seeds, avocado, and fatty fish. Many fat-free foods are high in sugar, refined carbohydrates, and calories.

Seek Out Help
Diet composition is ONE of many factors to consider in weight loss. Dietitians and healthcare professionals are here to help. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get advice from an expert!

Written by: Alysha Coughler
Registered Dietitian, Sports Dietitian, PTS

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