Keto, Atkins, Whole30—low-carb diets all but dominated the weight-loss world over the last few years. And now there’s new research to suggest that low-carb may be your best bet if weight loss (and weight-loss maintenance) is your goal.
The study, which was published in the journal BMJ, followed 164 overweight or obese people. The researchers had them lose about 12 percent of their weight and then put them on different diets to try to stabilize that weight.
Study participants were put into three groups: a high-carb diet group (60 percent carbs, 20 percent protein, 20 percent fat), a medium-carb diet group (40 percent carbs, 40 percent fat, 20 percent protein), and a low-carb diet group (20 percent carbs, 20 percent protein, 60 percent fat). Then, they were asked to follow the diets for 20 weeks.
(And yes, keto fanatics, the low-carb diet used is quite similar to the keto diet, which allows about 10 percent carbs, 30 percent protein, and 60 percent fat. The researchers, however, did not specifically call out keto, nor did they talk about ketosis—the state during which your body burns fat for fuel instead of carbs, which can happen on very low-carb diets.)
While participants were on the diets, the researchers controlled how many calories participants ate to help them maintain a baseline weight (typically about 2,000 calories, according to study materials). And, if someone started to gain or lose weight, the researchers increased or decreased how much they were eating.
So…how did low-carb dieters fare on the study, compared to high-carb dieters?
Basically, researchers found that people in the low-carb group did better at maintaining weight loss than everyone else. On average, they burned about 250 calories more a day than people on the high-carb diet.
Scientists were specifically looking at how the diets affected everyone’s metabolism and, overall, the participants in the low-carb group had to actually eat more calories than the other group to maintain their weight.
Clearly, this isn’t necessarily bad news for anyone following a low-carb diet, but something important to note: The study was super tightly-controlled (participants had to eat one meal a day in front of researchers—the rest were specifically portioned takeout items), so in the real world, it’s hard to say if a low-carb diet would have the exact same outcome.
Still, it certainly seems like promising news for people who’ve been seeing big wins on the keto diet or other low-carb plans (looking at you, Jenna Jameson).
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