Updated: May 10
Anyone who has ever tried to lose weight will have heard that reducing your calories is the way to do it.
However, a new study has shown that eating good, wholesome foods and cutting out processed and sugary foods is actually better for long term weight loss.
The study followed people who were trying to cut carbs or cut fats from their diets, and showed that even people who are insulin sensitive or show signs of food intolerance can benefit from whole foods without worrying about calories too much.
Quality, Not Quantity For long term weight management, we need to stop obsessing over the number of calories in a food product, and focus more on the quality of the ingredients. Instead of making food choices based on the number of calories, we should be choosing foods based on the quality of what is inside the food. In fact, our obsession with low calorie foods could be the reason for the obesity crisis in many countries across the globe.
About the Study I know, there are so many nutritional studies out there and it’s difficult to know which ones are legit and which ones you can trust. So, here’s some info about this particular study:
It was tested on more than 600 people.
It was published in JAMA and was led by, the director of nutrition studies at the Stanford Prevention Research Centre Christopher D. Gardner.
It got more than $8 million in funding from big names in the health industry.
Researchers created the study to compare how successful overweight and obese people would be on low-carb and low-fat plans.
Encouraged to meet guidelines for physical activity, but did not generally increase exercise levels
They wanted to test the theory that some people were more likely to be successful on certain diets due to their genetics.
The Start of the Study Participants were divided into two diet groups: “healthy” low carb and “healthy” low fat. The groups went to lessons with nutrition experts to learn the kind of things that could be included in their diets:
The “Healthy Low Fat” Group Juice, white rice and white bread are low in fat,but the group was told to swap them out for things like brown rice, lentils, quinoa, and fresh fruit.
The “Healthy Low Carb” Group This group were encouraged to opt for foods like avocados, hard cheeses, nut butters, nuts and seeds, and vegetables.
This study was different to many other previous studies for one main reason: the focus was on getting the participants to eat real, wholesome foods without restricting themselves on the amount of food that they were eating.The leader of the study noted “we didn’t ever set a number for them to follow”.
Not every participant was successful in losing weight in this study, but some lost as much as 50 to 60 pounds (22-27kg). The people who lost the most weight stated that the study had “changed their relationship with food” and cooking at home more with their families.
The participants were surprised throughout the study when they weren’t told to reduce their calories, and were encouraged further to avoid foods simply because the said “low fat” on the label.
The Results The standard nutrition and weight loss advice we have always received is to count calories. That is, to note down all the foods and drink calories that you consume in a day, and how much exercise you are doing to burn off some of those calories.
However, the new study found that after one year of focusing on food quality, the two groups lost a lot of weight.
On average, the members of the low-carb group lost just over 13 pounds, while those in the low-fat group lost about 11.7 pounds (around 5 to 6 kg). Both groups also saw decreases in their waist sizes, body fat, blood sugar and blood pressure.
The Findings The researchers wanted to see if the participants’ geneticswouldhave an effect on their responses to the diets. Interestingly, they did not.
The lead researcher was a little disappointed, noting that “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”.
Overall, the most important thing to take awayfrom the study is that calories did not matter as much as a “high quality diet”. Although fewer calories were consumed by both groups as a result of sticking to the healthy food guidelines, the focus was on foods with good nutritional value. It’s all about cutting out processed, sugary foods and focusing on long term wellbeing and health.