If you have ever been on a diet, you know that the formula for weight loss is to limit the amount of calories you intake.
According to a new study, published in JAMA, that advice may not be so relevant. It found that individuals who reduced refined grains, processed foods and added sugar while focusing on eating whole foods and plenty of vegetables — without stressing about limiting portion sizes or counting calories — lost a good amount of pounds over a year.
The plan worked whether they followed diets that were low in carbs or low in fat. Also, their results were not affected by genetics or insulin-response to carbs. The findings bring support to the fact that quality, not quantity is what really helps people lose and maintain their weight for long term.
This should encourage Americans to focus more on eliminating processed foods that contain refined starches and added sugar like refined flour, sugary snacks and white bread instead of calorie counting.
The study was led by Christopher D. Gardner, the director of nutrition studies at the Stanford Prevention Research Center. During research, 600 overweight or obese people were split into two groups, “healthy” low carb and “healthy low fat. Both members attended classes with dietitians where they were trained to eat nutrient-dense, less processed whole foods, prepared at home whenever possible.
The low-fat group was encouraged eat oats, brown rice, fresh fruits, legumes and low-fat dairy products. The low-fat group was trained to eat salmon, hard cheese, vegetables, grass-fed and pasture-raised animal foods.
Unlike previous studies, this one did not set restrictive carb or fat limits but instead emphasize that they focus eating whole or “real” foods. “The unique thing is that we didn’t ever set a number for them to follow,” Dr. Gardner said.
Obviously, many dieters do regain the weight they lose, and this study cannot determine if the participants will maintain their new habits. There was a large variability in both groups although people on average lost a significant amount of weight. Some gained weight and others lost 50 to 60 pounds. The ones who lost the most weight reported that the study “changed their relationship with food.”
I think keeping track of everything you eat while trying to burn all those calories with physical activity is very stressful and in the long run, you give up. I believe that focusing on high quality foods is a much better approach.
Dr. Gardner said many of the people in the study were surprised — and relieved — that they did not have to restrict or even think about calories.
“A couple weeks into the study people were asking when we were going to tell them how many calories to cut back on,” he said. “And months into the study they said, ‘Thank you! We’ve had to do that so many times in the past.’”
After one year, the low-carb group lost an average of 13 pounds, while those in the low-fat group lost about 12 pounds. Both groups also saw improvements in blood pressure and blood sugar levels, body fat and waist sizes.
Researchers took DNA samples and analyzed genetic variants to find out that it did not affect their responses to the diets.
The most important thing about this study is to focus more on diet quality and not tracking how many calories you have consumed. If you eat more whole foods, vegetables, less added sugar and less refined grains, you can really increase your chances of weight loss.
Gardner CD, Trepanowski JF, Del Gobbo LC, Hauser ME, Rigdon J, Ioannidis JPA, Desai M, King AC. Effect of Low-Fat vs Low-Carbohydrate Diet on 12-Month Weight Loss in Overweight Adults and the Association With Genotype Pattern or Insulin SecretionThe DIETFITS Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2018;319(7):667–679. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.0245
B.S. Criminal Justice