Body mass index (an indication of body fatness)
tended to be lower for men and women on high carbohydrate, lower
fat diets, and highest for those on low carbohydrate diets.
Energy intake (calories consumed) was lowest for
people following a vegetarian diet.
Diet quality, as measured by the healthy eating
index (HEI) was highest for people eating high carbohydrate
diets, and lowest for people eating low carbohydrate diets.
The study analyzed the food intake of
10,014 adults in the United States over three years - 1994, 1995,
and 1996, and included people who were on weight reduction diets
and those who were not.
What is a low carbohydrate diet?
are diets that have 20% or less of the calories coming from
carbohydrate sources. So, if you were eating 2000 Calories a day,
only 400 of those calories (about 100 grams) could come from
carbohydrates. Low carbohydrate diets include the Atkins diet,
and other high protein or high fat diets. While weight loss
occurs on these types of diets when the calories are reduced,
this type of eating (low carbohydrate) is associated with the
highest body fat in men and women.
Very low fat diets are
those that have 10% of less of the calories from fat. The most
popular diets of this type are the Ornish diet and the Pritikin
diet. Although these diets are not necessarily vegetarian, you
really can't eat too many animal foods and still have a very low
fat diet, so animal foods are quite limited on these
Need a Low Fat Diet?
Moderate fat, high
carbohydrate diets are those in which the fat is below 30% of
calories, and the carbohydrate is 55% or more. Many popular
weight reduction plans are of this type, and your personal diet
plan fits best into this category. The good news is that this is
the type of diet that is associated with a lower body mass index,
which is the goal for weight loss.
For good nutrition and
good health, eating a lower fat, higher carbohydrate diet is not
enough. The USDA study looked at high carbohydrate eating
patterns that consisted of "Pyramid" versus "non-Pyramid" types
of eating. The difference is that a Pyramid style of eating
attempts to include at least one serving of each food group in
the Food Guide Pyramid (fruits, vegetables, grains, low-fat
dairy, low-fat meats and meat alternatives).
When compared to a
non-Pyramid diet, the Pyramid type of higher carbohydrate diet
was higher in nutritional quality and lower in sugar. Of course,
this makes sense. When you eat more carbohydrates in the form of
whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, your diet will be of higher
In reviewing the literature on diet, the
USDA researchers found a lot of erroneous information, no
One of the things they found was that there was no evidence
to suggest that low-carbohydrate diets have any metabolic
advantage for weight loss.
The other conclusion, which makes sense, is that the
composition of the diet is not really an important factor in
weight loss, only the reduction in calories is important.
Lastly, the results of their extensive research so far
indicate that the optimal diet for weight maintenance is one that
controls fat intake - your personal diet is designed to do just
There are many
limitations to what is known about diets at this time. Most
studies have very small groups of subjects, and there are very
few studies that show the long-term effects of different diets.
However, current evidence suggests that a healthy, lower fat way
of eating, one that includes a variety of vegetables, grains,
fruits, low fat animal foods or meat alternatives is the way to
go for long term weight maintenance and for good health.
Low fat diets really do work!
See how my
low fat diets for weight loss and better health
can be a good choice for your needs.