After all the hype about low-fat diets, researchers have discovered something that could change the way people think about their weight loss strategies: low-fat diets are not more effective than higher-fat diets with the same amount of calories in keeping the pounds off.
A study conducted by researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH) found that low-fat diets did not lead to greater weight loss than other diets, Live Science reported.
The researchers investigated 53 studies on low-fat diets, low-carb diets, higher-fat diets and no diet (or eating one's usual diet) and compared how much weight loss the participants achieved. The researchers discovered that low-fat diets were no better than other types of diet when it comes to long-term weight loss.
The only time that weight loss was evident for a low-fat diet was when it was compared to the no diet or usual diet method. Additionally, the long-term effectiveness of a low-fat diet depends only on its intensity.
"Despite the pervasive dogma that one needs to cut fat from their diet in order to lose weight, the existing scientific evidence does not support low-fat diets over other dietary interventions for long-term weight loss," lead study author Deirdre Tobias from the Division of Preventive Medicine at BWH said in a press release. "In fact, we did not find evidence that is particularly supportive of any specific proportion of calories from fat for meaningful long-term weight loss."
Tobias said people should think beyond fat and carb calories and focus instead on "healthy eating patterns, whole foods and portion sizes." However, she emphasized that this does not mean that those who want to lose weight should not cut fat from their diets. On the other hand, they may still have to do so in favor of healthier food choices.
"We don't eat calories per se - we eat foods," Tobias, an instructor at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, told Live Science. "The focus needs to shift away from specific nutrients - carbs and fats - to a discussion of healthy foods and eating patterns."
The study was published in the online Oct. 29 issue of the journal The Lancet.