Carbohydrate Restriction has a More Favorable Impact on the Metabolic Syndrome than a Low Fat Diet

We recently proposed that the biological markers improved by carbohydrate restriction were precisely those that define the metabolic syndrome (MetS), and that the common thread was regulation of insulin as a control element. We specifically tested the idea with a 12-week study comparing two hypocaloric diets (~1,500 kcal): a carbohydrate-restricted diet (CRD) (%carbohydrate:fat:protein = 12:59:28) and a low-fat diet (LFD) (56:24:20)

40 subjects with elevated risk factors for cardiovascular disease were randomized to a low-carb or a low-fat diet for 12 weeks. Both groups were calorie restricted.

Weight Loss: The low-carb group lost 10.1 kg (22.3), while the low-fat group lost 5.2 kg (11.5 lbs).

Conclusion: The low-carb group lost almost twice the amount of weight as the low-fat group, despite eating the same amount of calories.

This study is particularly interesting because it matched calories between groups and measured so-called “advanced” lipid markers. Several things are worth noting:

  • Triglycerides went down by 107 mg/dL on LC, but 36 mg/dL on the LF diet.
  • HDL cholesterol increased by 4 mg/dL on LC, but went down by 1 mg/dL on LF.
  • Apolipoprotein B went down by 11 points on LC, but only 2 points on LF.
  • LDL size increased on LC, but stayed the same on LF.
  • On the LC diet, the LDL particles partly shifted from small to large (good), while they partly shifted from large to small on LF (bad).

Volek JS, et al. Carbohydrate restriction has a more favorable impact on the metabolic syndrome than a low fat diet. Lipids, 2009.

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