When it comes to tackling obesity and treating and preventing other related diseases such as type-2 diabetes, heart disease and even some cancers a good diet is a critical component. But what is a good diet? Is it low-fat? Is it low-carb? We look at some of the recent research and opinion around diet for weight loss, and what that means for people struggling with obesity and related health issues.
Recently there has been a lot of press about the benefits of clean eating, and even more so, on the benefits of low-carb, high protein diets. But the two terms aren’t necessarily the same thing. So what do the experts say could be the best diet for weight loss and managing obesity-related diseases?
Studies on Low-Carb Benefits
A significant clinical study on low-carb versus low-fat diets was recently completed in Australia by the CSIRO.
The CSIRO undertook a two-year study comparing different dietary approaches for the management of type-2 diabetes. One was a low carbohydrate, high protein and high ‘healthy fat’ diet. The other was a more traditional diet high in unrefined carbohydrates and low in fat. All participants also participated in a supervised exercise program.
According to study findings, there was a “clear link” between a low carbohydrate diet and diabetes management. Low carb diets led to a 40 percent reduction in the volume of diabetes medication required. The second finding was that this diet also reduced the number of blood glucose spikes experienced by diabetic patients throughout the day.
Should We All Switch to a Low-Carb Diet for Weight Loss?
The CSIRO’s Associate Professor and principal research scientist Grant Brinkworth says our traditional approach may need changing.
“This research shows that traditional dietary approaches for managing type-2 diabetes could be outdated, we really need to review the current dietary guidelines if we are serious about using the latest scientific evidence to reduce the impact of the disease,” Professor Brinkworth said.
In the race to tackle obesity and diabetes, it is tempting to make a quick switch to a high-protein, low-carb diet. But rushing into any diet for weight loss can be risky.
A couple of things about the study should also be noted:
- BOTH groups lost around 10kg of weight on both diets.
- BOTH groups did so with the support of a Dietitian.
So whilst low-carb diets could be beneficial, it is often the right support on the diet and finding one which addresses unique nutritional needs which produce the best result. Further research is needed in this area before all people with Type 2 Diabetes are switched to a low carb diet.
For instance, feasting on bacon, eggs and Camembert cheese every day is a low-carb diet. But it is certainly not a healthy or balanced one.
Good Food Vs Good Diets
One point which is worth highlighting in the study is that both diets used in the CSIRO study were very well balanced nutritionally and both calorie-controlled. A diet rich in good nutritious food is always the best choice for anyone’s health and well-being.
Principal Dietitian at Simply Nutrition Dietitians, Kate Stoker said that Australians generally should eat good quality carbohydrates such as whole grains, legumes, fruit, vegetables and dairy. They should also read the labels on the back of packaged products to understand nutritional value, however, the less label reading you do the better, as this means you are choosing fresh unprocessed foods.
“All carbs are not equal in their nutritional value, there is a big difference between the carbohydrates found in brown rice and a bowl of potato chips.”
“Carbohydrates are the main fuel for our entire body especially the brain. Consuming inadequate amounts of carbohydrates can leave people with fatigue, headaches, lethargy, and brain fog and so I would worry about promoting their total removal the diet,” Ms Stoker said.
This is interesting research into diet and diabetes as well as for obesity in general. Do our dietary guidelines need reviewing as the CSIRO suggests? Possibly.
But for the person struggling with their weight, the overall message we can take away is:
- Try to lower the total amount of total calories in your diet
- Eat more unprocessed foods especially more fruit and vegetables
- Choose nutritious sources of protein
- Eat less empty carbohydrates often found in today’s processed and packaged food.
Remember, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to your diet. Everyone has different nutritional needs. The best diet for weight loss is a healthy diet, rather than a fad diet. One which includes plenty of whole foods. Fresh, unprocessed food is best.
The ideal way to tackle your diet when it comes to obesity and all related diseases is with the ongoing support of a qualified Dietitian.
Are You A Weight Loss Surgery Patient?
If you have had, or will have weight loss surgery then ‘fad diets’ of any kind are unsuitable. We believe the ongoing support of a dietitian is the best approach for good nutritional health after surgery. A dietitian can ensure an adequate uptake of nutrients while supporting your weight loss goals. Find out more about the importance of diet after weight loss surgery.