Should you recommend a low-carb, high-fat/high-protein diet for weight loss?

June 1, 2007

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While questions about the long-term effects remain, it seems a diet low in carbohydrates and high in fat and protein, like the Atkins Diet, is a viable way for premenopausal overweight women to shed pounds and remain healthy.

The finding comes from the A TO Z (Atkins, Traditional, Ornish, Zone) Weight Loss Study, a randomized trial comparing four popular weight-loss programs over 1 year's time in nondiabetic, premenopausal women with a body mass index of between 27 and 40. The programs chosen span the spectrum of carbohydrate intake. Atkins is at the low end with the least amount of carbohydrates allowed. Zone advocates a somewhat low carbohydrate intake, but more than that of Atkins. LEARN, which stands for Lifestyle, Exercise, Attitudes, Relationships, and Nutrition, is a low-fat, high-carbohydrate program based on national guidelines. And the Ornish diet professes a very high carbohydrate intake.

The authors of the study found that weight loss was greater for the women in the Atkins group (–4.7 kg; 95% CI, –6.3 to –3.1 kg) than for the Zone group (–1.6 kg; 95% CI, –2.8 to –0.4 kg), the LEARN group (–2.6 kg; –3.8 to –1.3 kg), or the Ornish group (–2.2 kg; –3.6 to –0.8 kg). In fact, the difference between the latter three was statistically insignificant. And at one year, lipid profiles, percentage of body fat, waist-hip ratio, fasting insulin and glucose levels, and blood pressure were all more favorable in the Atkins group than in the other three groups.