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You Don’t Need To Go Low-Carb To Burn Body Fat, Study Says


Low-carb diet or low-fat one? Either diet will trigger the body to burn off fat, a new study finds.

If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you’ve probably gotten drawn into the argument over whether it’s better to cut carbs or fat from your diet. A new study doesn’t completely resolve that question, but it does provide an important insight.

Some proponents of the low-carb diet insist that you must cut carbs to burn off body fat. Their reasoning goes that when you cut carbs, your body’s insulin levels drop, and that’s essential in order to burn fat.

To put that question to the test, Kevin Hall at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and colleagues recruited 19 obese volunteers (average weight over 230 pounds) to participate in a rigorous study.

For two weeks they were kept in a lab around the clock, where scientists could provide them a precise diet. One group got a low-carb diet that reduced their total calories by 30 percent. Another group went on a low-fat diet that also reduced their total calories by 30 percent. Then, after a few weeks of rest, the two groups switched diets.

As Hall now reports in the journal Cell Metabolism, cutting carbs did work.

“We cut the carbohydrates, insulin went down, and fat burning went up, exactly the way that theory predicts, and people lost fat,” Hall says.

The average participant lost about a pound of fat over two weeks, and about 4 pounds of weight total (the rest was probably water).

But Hall’s study also showed that the low-carb, low-insulin conditions were not necessary to shed body fat. In fact, the low-fat diet also led to the loss of about 1 pound of body fat. So it was just as good.

Hall says, so much for the idea that only low-carb diets can help people shed fat. “That theory, as it stands — that very strong claim — is certainly not true,” he says.

Instead, his evidence favors those who say if you want to lose body fat, total calories matter most.


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