Trendy low-carb weight-loss plans, like the Atkins and Zone diets, have been duking it out for years, each claiming to be the best for weight loss. But a new study gives the Atkins Diet a leg up.
Experts have long voiced concerns that low-carb plans, especially the Atkins Diet, wreak havoc with blood cholesterol levels, because they are high in fat. But in the latest showdown of the weight-loss plans, the Atkins diet came out on top for both weight loss and effect on blood cholesterol levels.
Diets vs. Diets. In the study, researchers from Stanford University Medical School
recruited 311 overweight and obese women, ages 25 to 50, randomly assigning them to follow one of four diets:
• The Atkins Diet group aimed for no more than 20 grams of carbohydrates a day for two to three months and no more than 50 grams a day after that.
• The LEARN Diet (Lifestyle, Exercise, Attitudes, Relationships and Nutrition) group followed a "prudent" diet of 55% to 60% calories from carbohydrates and less than
10% from saturated fat.
• The Ornish Diet group aimed to get no more than 10% of calories from fat.
• The Zone Diet group followed a 40%-30%-30% (carbohydrate-protein-fat) distribution of calories.
The Results Weigh In. After following the plans for one year, the Atkins dieters
lost the most weight—10 pounds; Zone dieters lost the least—3.5. But the biggest
surprise was that the Atkins diet showed no unhealthy effects on blood cholesterol
levels. In fact, high-density lipoprotein (HDLs or "good") cholesterol actually increased and triglycerides decreased among Atkins dieters, both favorable responses.
EN's Take. So, does this mean Atkins is the best way to lose weight? Not necessarily.
There were no significant differences in weight loss among the Atkins, Omish and LEARN diets (the Zone diet lagged behind all three). Moreover, the longer participants followed Atkins, the less effective it was; they lost more weight at the start, but began putting pounds back on as time passed. And the study didn't look at men or older people.
Still, it does lay to rest fears that the Atkins Diet increases cardiovascular disease risk by raising cholesterol levels.