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Low-Carb Weight Loss vs. Heart Health

Most diets these days, especially those of bodybuilders, tend to favor low carbs over lowfat plans, the previous trend. According to Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., in the November ’10 Better Nutrition, a recent study compared the two diets using more than 300 participants over a two-year period.

The low-carb group got only 20 grams of low-glycemic carbs for three months, then added five grams of carbs per week almost every week, stopping around week 12, when they were up to 210 grams per day.

The lowfat group got 1,200 to 1,500 calories a day for women and 1,500 to 1,800 for men. Both men and women kept their fat intake to 30 percent of calories, and they stuck with the program for two years.

Results: “There was no difference in weight loss between the two groups.” That’s not, of course, the end of the story. There’s a health twist and also an observation about the fat-loss results.

“Six months into the study the low-carb group had a significantly greater reduction in diastolic blood pressure, a significantly greater reduction in triglycerides and significantly greater reductions in a particularly ‘bad’ cholesterol called VLDL.... And at all points throughout the two years, including the finish line, the low-carb group had a significant increase in HDL (‘good’) cholesterol: approximately 23 percent. There’s not a drug on earth that’s been able to do that.”

The problem with the fat-loss conclusion is that the low-carb dieters were allowed to increase their carbs repeatedly. How high is too high to keep fat loss low to nonexistent? According to Bowden, somewhere around 100 grams a day is the magic number; however, keep in mind that the subjects were not hard-training bodybuilders. Athletes like those would need more—how much more would depend on the intensity and duration of workouts.


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