Opting for a low-fat diet has been overestimated as an effective solution for ensuring weight loss, according to a study published on October 30 in the journal The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology.
Research was conducted by experts at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston, Massachusetts.
A total of 68,128 adults were included in the analysis, which reviewed 53 studies conducted until the end of July 2014. The purpose was to assess the results yielded by low-fat diets, when it came to achieving long-term weight loss.
Some of the low-fat plans had involved obtaining a maximum of 10% of the daily calorie intake by consuming fats, while others had been less demanding, allowing individuals to derive 30% of their daily energy from fats.
Researchers wanted to see how these practices of caloric restriction would fare against other types of weight loss strategies, such as low carb diets, and also against ordinary eating habits, which didn’t exclude fats.
While some subjects benefited from greater support, by keeping a food diary or being assisted by a counselor or dietitian, others relied solely on basic instructions or pamphlets.
It was determined that reducing daily intake of fats wasn’t the most successful strategy employed for shedding pounds.
In fact, there was no statistically significant difference in terms of effectiveness when comparing higher-fat diets with those requiring people to consume smaller quantities of fat. 19 trials had analyzed the two types of interventions, and subjects who had opted for low-fat meals shed just 0.36 kilograms more than their counterparts.
“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”, explained Deidre Tobias, researcher in the Division of Preventive Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Overall, no particular weight loss plan actually had significant results, and all of the analyzed practices proved quite disappointing when compared with their professed benefits.
At an average, the weight loss experienced during the trials whose purpose had been to lower the participants’ body mass index was of just 3.75 kilograms, researchers have revealed.
Diminishing the amount of carbohydrates seemed to have more visible effects when it came to keeping weight loss steady for a period longer than one year, participants who opted for this strategy shedding around 1.15 kilograms more than those who had tried low-fat diets.
However, even in this case improvements weren’t astonishing, but they did emphasize that higher fat, low-carbohydrate diets may in fact be more preferable to other weight loss interventions.
Therefore, experts believe that dietary guidelines should cease to promote low-fat eating habits as the miracle solution in the quest to be slim and fit.
These outmoded recommendations have been issued for decades, and yet the percentage of people who are obese or overweight has grown, so obviously the strategy hasn’t paid off as expected.
In contrast, researchers recommend that the focus should be placed on encouraging consumption of healthy foods, while getting into a regular eating pattern.
Moreover, those who start a diet should understand that adopting certain habits for just 6 or 8 months, and then discarding them once they’ve managed to lose some weight, is a surefire way of putting back those recently shed pounds shortly afterwards.