Low-Carb and Low-Fat Diets Equally Effective For Losing Weight: Study

When it comes to losing weight, there's only one thing people want to know: What is the best diet for dropping those extra pounds?

Low carbohydrate plans such as Atkins and Keto are popular, but many of those dieting fear fat, which is traditionally found in both diets. But a study now suggests that both low fat and low carb diets are equally effective in losing weight—as long as you're consuming the right type of foods.

Related: Pizza for Breakfast Is Healthier Than Cereal, Says Dietitian—Finally

A new study indicates that both low-carb and low-fat diets are effective for losing weight. Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for NYCWFF

New data published Tuesday in the research journal JAMA revealed that people who followed a low-fat diet for one year lost almost 12 pounds, on average. Meanwhile, their fat-eating, low-carb counterparts dropped roughly 13 pounds. The researchers determined that food quality was even important than dietary plan.The reason? Successful dieters all consumed less sugar and refined flour and ate more vegetables.

"The bottom line: Diet quality is important for both weight control and long-term well-being," Nutritionist Christopher Gardner of Stanford and study co-author told The New York Times.

In other words, just because a soda might be low fat, that doesn't mean it's a good choice for dieters.

"We made sure to tell everybody, regardless of which diet they were on, to go to the farmer's market and don't buy processed convenience food crap. Also, we advised them to diet in a way that didn't make them feel hungry or deprived—otherwise it's hard to maintain the diet in the long run," said in a post on the university's website.

Gardner told The Times that people focus too much on calories and not enough on where the numbers come from.

"I think one place we go wrong is telling people to figure out how many calories they eat and then telling them to cut back on 500 calories, which makes them miserable," he said. "We really need to focus on that foundational diet, which is more vegetables, more whole foods, less added sugar and less refined grains."

Nutritious foods are more satiating, which naturally helps people eat less, and therefore consume fewer calories.

Gardner and his team came to this conclusion by conducting a randomized clinical trial with 609 overweight adults (only 481 completed the experiment) who were assigned to either follow healthy low fat or low carb diets.

Weight, along with other indicators of health, such as body fat percentage, waist circumference and blood pressure, were monitored for a year. Participants were between 18 and 50 years old, with the group almost equally male and female. Everyone attended nutrition education classes about minimally-processed foods.

To identify whether some people fared better on low-carb diets, DNA samples were collected. In particular, the team looked at whether people who released more insulin when eating carbohydrates lost more weight on low-carb diets.

The answer is no, according to Gardner.

"It would have been sweet to say we have a simple clinical test that will point out whether you're insulin resistant or not and whether you should eat more or less carbs," he told The Times. Higher insulin levels are associated with insulin resistance.

Next, Gardner hopes to determine how the microbiome or other genetic differences could help people lose weight.

For now, he believes there's only one thing you should focus on, despite any preference for carbs or fats: eating your fruit and vegetables.