low carb, ketogenic diets versus low-fat diets

You might be asking yourself, do I really have to keep my carbohydrate intake below 20 g a day just to lose weight the ketogenic way?

The answer is no.

Low carbohydrate diets offer very similar results as the ketogenic diet in terms of weight loss, and they also share some of the same health benefits, such as:

  • Lowering blood sugar levels and insulin needs (1)

  • Reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes, dementia, cancer and cardiovascular disease

  • Decreased appetite (2)

  • Improvement in blood pressure

  • A healthier heart (3)

  • Reduces triglycerides, which are a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease

  • Increased concentrations of HDL, (the “good” cholesterol)

  • Reduced size and concentration of LDL (the "bad" cholesterol)

  • Boost mood (4)

  • Burn off stubborn belly fat (5)

Anyone can benefit from lowering their carb intake, and should really make an effort in doing so for various health reasons.

Given its recent popularity, one can find an almost endless supply of competing “Keto Diets” online, in magazines, and elsewhere. They each seem to recommend different things, and the information they contain is often contradictory, or completely misleading. The best way to distinguish the fads and the phonies from legitimate diets is to stick to the facts.

One way to do this is by looking at published, peer reviewed studies from reputable academic sources. A recent study titled, “A Low-Carbohydrate, Ketogenic diet versus a Low-Fat Diet To Treat Obesity and Hyperlipidemia: A Randomized, Controlled Trial,” put the Ketogenic diet to the test in a controlled, scientific study in order to reach measurable conclusions that are free from fad and hearsay. In this article, we will examine the study and its findings.

The study’s authors carried out an experiment that compared the effects of a low carb diet on the body (similar to a Ketogenic diet), with those of a low-fat, low cholesterol, reduced-calorie diet. Over the course of a 24-week period, the low carb group was told to only restrict carbohydrates, while the low-fat diet group was told to restrict fat and overall calorie intake. The authors of the study found that the low-carbohydrate group demonstrated greater weight loss compared to the group on a low-fat diet. The low carb group also had proportionately more fat mass losses, decreases in triglycerides, and increases in HDL (healthy cholesterol).

The study also looked into the symptoms of metabolic syndrome in each diet group. Metabolic syndrome consists of a number of factors that determine one’s risk for developing heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. The criteria that indicate a metabolic disorder include: elevated waist circumference, higher blood pressure, higher weight, unhealthy levels of triglycerides, decreased HDL (healthy cholesterol), and insulin sensitivity. The low-carbohydrate diet group saw promising results in these categories as well.

In addition to increased weight loss and healthier metabolic indicators, the low carb diet group demonstrated better participant retention. In other words, more individuals stuck to their diet through the end of the study. Both diets were effective, but the low carb diet was significantly more effective than the low fat diet in achieving results.

Ultimately, this study shows that simply restricting calories via the low fat diet is not the best method for sustainable weight loss. By incorporating one of the key principles of a Ketogenic diet (low carbohydrate) the authors were able to demonstrate, study, and document the positive effects that this kind of diet can offer to those who try it (6). Today, scientific studies put an increased emphasis on food choices and combinations, in contrast to net energy consumption alone. This type of research helps to weed-out the hearsay and contribute to our knowledge of what diet techniques are actually effective and worth trying to improve our health and well being.

So whether you choose to go keto, or to just cut down on the carbohydrates you consume, you will reap similar benefits in terms of weight loss for both diets.

Bottom line: cut the carbs!

Our bodies really do not require as many carbohydrates as most people consume.

These unused carbohydrates are later stored as fat; so, if your goal is to lose a few extra pounds.. think twice before eating that second (non-keto) cookie.

Choose the diet that best suits your lifestyle, and you will see that you have nothing to gain, and everything to lose!

(How often do you hear that phrase as a positive?)


(1) Silva, M. E., Pupo, A. A., & Ursich, M. J. (1987). Effects of a high-carbohydrate diet on blood glucose, insulin and triglyceride levels in normal and obese subjects and in obese subjects with impaired glucose tolerance. Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research = Revista Brasileira De Pesquisas Medicas E Biologicas, 20(3–4), 339–350.

(2) Rizi, E. P., Loh, T. P., Baig, S., Chhay, V., Huang, S., Quek, J. C., … Khoo, C. M. (2018). A high carbohydrate, but not fat or protein meal attenuates postprandial ghrelin, PYY and GLP-1 responses in Chinese men. PLOS ONE, 13(1), e0191609. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0191609.

(3) https://www.nature.com/articles/ejcn2013116Paoli, A., Rubini, A., Volek, J. S., & Grimaldi, K. A. (2013). Beyond weight loss: a review of the therapeutic uses of very-low-carbohydrate (Ketogenic) diets. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 67(8), 789–796. https://doi.org/10.1038/ejcn.2013.116.

(4) Sánchez-Villegas, A., Verberne, L., Irala, J. D., Ruíz-Canela, M., Toledo, E., Serra-Majem, L., & Martínez-González, M. A. (2011). Dietary fat intake and the risk of depression: the sun project. PLOS ONE, 6(1), e16268. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0016268.(5) Shai, I., Schwarzfuchs, D., Henkin, Y., Shahar, D. R., Witkow, S., Greenberg, I., … Stampfer, M. J. (2008). Weight loss with a low-carbohydrate, mediterranean, or low-fat diet. New England Journal of Medicine, 359(3), 229–241. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMoa0708681.

(6) Yancy, W. S., Olsen, M. K., Guyton, J. R., Bakst, R. P., & Westman, E. C. (2004). A low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet versus a low-fat diet to treat obesity and hyperlipidemia: a randomized, controlled trial. Annals of Internal Medicine, 140(10), 769–777. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15148063.

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