Thursday, August 5, 2010

Lose More Weight and Hair with a Low-Carb Diet...Worth it?

A study was just published yesterday in Annals of Internal Medicine reporting the results of a 2-year study comparing a low-carb diet against a low-fat, lower-calorie diet for weight loss in middle-aged, obese men and women.  And by low-carb, I mean the Atkins Diet which starts off with less than 20 g of carbs a day and increases from there.  

There have been several studies now comparing these diets.  What makes this study different is that it was 2 years long.  And as such, the results are quite interesting.  Here are the highlights:

  • People lost weight faster on the low-carb diet.  But after 2 years, weight loss was the same for both groups. 
  • For both diets, people only lost weight for the first 6 months.  After that, they spent the next 18 months gaining back the weight, albeit slowly.  This is a sad reality of weight loss. 
  • For the folks eating low carb, about 50% of them reported significant hair loss during the first 6 months.  This is pretty common on these really low-carb diets and something that people should seriously consider before starting such a diet.  Is it worth losing your hair to lose weight more quickly?    
  • At the end of the study, the folks on the low-carb diet increased their levels of "good" cholesterol whereas those on the low-fat diet did not.  Quite interesting since people tend to freak out that the Atkins Diet is bad for your heart.  
  • Also at the end of the study, there were no differences in bone density between the low-carb and low-fat groups and bone density didn't change over time in either group.  This is pretty significant because again, people freak out that all the high-protein from animal products will cause bone loss.  Not according to this study. 
So what does this all mean???  Opinions will vary, but to me this means that we have got to start studying the real do you prevent weight gain after successfully losing weight?  There have been numerous studies that show that the approach doesn't matter...low-carb, low-fat, South Beach Diet...they all work for weight loss.  They just don't work for more than about 6 months for most people.  

This also means that I will continue to enjoy 'weekend bacon' and my other high-protein foods, but at a reasonable level that keeps my hair intact (see my posts on protein).  And alas, it means that some other schmuck will publish a weight loss book that will be all the rage, but in reality will only be as effective as every other diet that is in existence (at least for the first 6 months)...but that person will be rich and famous and laughing about it all as they head in for their annual liposuction.       

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