Weight Loss Limitations of Low Carb Diets

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10. Weight Loss and Low Carb Diets

Extract from "Updated Analysis of Health Problems Associated with High-Protein, High-Fat, Carbohydrate-Restricted Diets Reported via an Online Registry" by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) (Dec, 2003)

Note: Numbers in brackets refer to research references. See Low Carb Eating References

Limitations on Weight Loss

Despite media accounts of seemingly dramatic weight loss, the effect of high-protein diets on body weight is similar to that of other weight-reduction diets. Three recent studies, one at Duke University, (1) a second at the University of Pennsylvania, (2) and a third at a Philadelphia medical center, (3) suggest that mean weight loss with high-protein diets during the first six months of use is approximately 20 pounds. While this weight loss is greater than that which occurs from diets not designed for weight loss (e.g., diets based on the Food Guide Pyramid or National Cholesterol Education Program guidelines), it is not demonstrably greater than that which occurs with other weight-loss regimens or with low-fat, vegetarian diets prescribed without energy restrictions. (30)

A closer look at the two studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine comparing low-carbohydrate diets and conventional (moderately low-fat [25–30%], restricted-calorie) diets for weight loss in obese adult subjects shows that weight loss over six to 12 months was minimal on both types of diets. Weight loss amounted to about half a pound per week at six months and one-fifth a pound per week at one year on the low-carbohydrate diet. Weight loss was about one-quarter to one-fifth a pound per week at six months and about one-tenth a pound per week at one year on the conventional weight-loss diet. (2), (3)

In one of these studies, the difference in weight loss between the groups was no longer apparent at one year. (2) The short-term difference in weight loss between the diets can be explained in both studies by lower caloric intake for those on the low-carbohydrate diet as compared to those on the conventional weight-loss diets. This is consistent with a recent review of 107 research studies on low-carbohydrate weight-loss diets, which concluded that weight loss was associated with longer diet duration and reduction of calories, but not with reduced carbohydrate intake. (31) Seven registrants reported not losing or gaining weight while on a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet.

INDEX to PCRM Low Carb Health Problems Report


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Carbohydrates Definition
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Complex Carbs Guide
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Starch/Starchy Carbohydrates
Sugars Carbohydrates
Carb Counting Guide
Facts About Carbohydrates
Diabetes, Carbs and Diet

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Nutrition & Carbohydrate
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