Here's some cheerful news for the obese who are wanting to slim down with moderate exercise: They don't face any risk from low-carb, higher-fat diets.
"Overweight and obese people appear to really have options when choosing a weight-loss program, including a low-carb diet, and even if it means eating more fat," says the studies' lead investigator exercise physiologist Kerry Stewart, Ed.D.
Stewart, professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, says his team's latest analysis is believed to be the first direct comparison of either kind of diet on the effects to vascular health, based on the study of 46 people trying to lose weight through diet and exercise.
The research was prompted by concerns from people who wanted to include one of the low-carb, high-fat diets, such as Atkins, South Beach and Zone, as part of their weight-loss program, but were wary of the diets' higher fat content, according to a Johns Hopkins statement.
In the first study, the Hopkins team studied 23 men and women, weighing on average 218 pounds, participating in a six-month weight-loss programme comprising moderate aerobic exercise and lifting weights, plus a diet made up of 30 percent of calories from pastas, breads and sugary fruits.
As much as 40 percent of their diet was made up of fats coming from meat, dairy products and nuts. This low-carb group showed no change after shedding 10 pounds in two key measures of vascular health.
Low-carb dieters showed no harmful vascular changes, but also on average dropped 10 pounds in 45 days, compared to an equal number of study participants randomly assigned to a low-fat diet.
The low-fat group, whose diet consisted of no more than 30 percent from fat and 55 percent from carbs, took on average nearly a month longer, or 70 days, to lose the same amount of weight.
"More people should be considering a low-carb diet as a good option," Stewart adds. He says high-carb foods are, in general, less filling, and people tend to get carried away with how much low-fat food they can eat.
These findings will be presented on Thursday at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in Denver.