The idea of following a low-fat diet to reduce weight has already been in question for several years now. With the purpose to evaluate this issue, researchers from Bringham and Women's Hospital (BWH) and Harvard University conducted a comprehensive review of previous data from clinical trials that investigated its efficacy. Their findings suggest that avoiding fat-rich foods is not really the most effective way to keeping the heavy weight off.
"Despite the pervasive dogma that one needs to cut fat from their diet in order to lose weight, the existing scientific evidence does not support low-fat diets over other dietary inteventions for long-term weight loss," says Deirde Tobias, ScD, a researcher in the Division of Preventive Medicine at BWH, in a press release. "In fact, we did not find evidence that is particularly supportive of any specific proportion of calories from fat for meaningful long-term weight loss"
Thus, the team decided to study more on healthy eating patterns, whole foods, and portion sizes instead of just delving into the ratios of calories in carbohydrates, proteins and fats. They analyzed 53 clinical trials with a total of 68,128 participants to measure the difference in weight change between two groups, one following low-fat diet and the other with any other diet.
With the data gathered, they discovered that low-fat diets did not really help the subjects lose weight and maintain weight loss for more than a year. On the average, participants following low-fat diets only managed to lose and keep off six pounds at one year or longer, while those with low-carb diets lost about 8.5 pounds within a year. Unexpectedly, people restricted from taking fats also tend to weigh more than the participants who kept their own personal diet.
Tobias told Yahoo Health that she was surprised with how ineffective low-fat diets are, seeing the poor outcomes in people following such regimen in long-term. "Everyone has been promoting low-fat diets for decades and we're still chasing an obesity epidemic. We knew something wasn't right in the message we were promoting," she said.
"Current evidence indicates that clinically meaningful weight loss can be achieved with a variety of dietary approaches," Senior Author Frank Hu, professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, gives his statement. "The key is to improve long-term compliance and cardiometabolic health. Therefore, weight loss diets should be tailored to cultural and food preferences and health conditions of the individual and should also consider long-term health consequences of the diets."
The study appears in The Lancnet Diabetes & Endocrinology.