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You can't buy good health but you can buy good health information. Check out these newly released Special Health Reports from Harvard Medical School:

Low Carb or Low Fat diet? The Harvard Health Letter investigates the debate

If weight loss were a sprint, the low carb diet plan would win hands down. It is not completely certain why people lose weight faster on low carb diets, although one of the most likely explanations is that they are better at suppressing appetite for a time, making it easier to achieve the ultimate goal of all diets, cutting calories. However, results from two studies summarized in the August issue of the Harvard Health Letter show that with regards to weight loss, low carb and low fat diets end up in a statistical tie after a year.

In the first study, published last year, the low carb diet plan spurted ahead of their low fat counterparts during the first six months, only to regain pounds in the next six. In the second study, published earlier this year, the low carb group kept off the pounds, but the low fat group caught up with them by continuing to lose weight.

However, because obesity can be a lifelong issue for many people, the August issue advises that longer studies are needed to examine long-term weight loss progress of both diets, not just results for a year.

As for the health effects, chief objections to low carb diet planhave been that they can increase levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol. But both year-long studies found that the low carb and low fat diet plans had the same effect on LDL levels. And low carb diets outdid low fat diets with respect to other blood fats related to heart disease.

The August issue of the Harvard Health Letter imparts three other important messages:

  • The low carb diet plan can be improved by sticking with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats and choosing whole grains as your carbs.
  • Diets have differing effects on cholesterol levels and metabolic factors. If you're considering losing weight, talk to your doctor about getting a cholesterol test. The results can help you choose the best diet.
  • Because of taste, upbringing, genetics, and other factors, the individual response to diets varies tremendously. Experiment to see what works for you.

More Harvard Health News »


About Harvard Health Publications

Harvard Health Publications publishes four monthly newsletters--Harvard Health Letter, Harvard Women's Health Watch, Harvard Men's Health Watch, and Harvard Heart Letter--as well as more than 50 special health reports and books drawing on the expertise of the 8,000 faculty physicians at Harvard Medical School and its world-famous affiliated hospitals.