However, there was a lot of weight loss variability among people for each type of diet, which suggests that what works for some people won't necessarily work the same way for others. "It's because we're all very different, and we're just starting to understand the reasons for this diversity".
"We've all heard stories of a friend who went on one diet - it worked great - and then another friend tried the same diet, and it didn't work at all".
The findings make it less likely that genetics might explain why only some people manage to lose weight on a low-carb diet like Atkins and why others succeed with a low-fat one (even though the vast majority of dieters don't keep off whatever pounds they lose). And the general advice to eat more vegetables and cut back on processed foods, added sugar, and refined grains is likewise of longstanding.
In the first two months, dieters in each group were told to limit carbs or fats to 20g daily.
Over the course of a year, participants were invited to 22 group sessions to help them stick to their diet.
Interestingly enough, those who lost the most weight didn't do so by cutting macros.
For the study, researchers led by Gardner recruited 609 men and women between the ages of 18 and 50 and placed them into one of two dietary groups: low-carbohydrate or low-fat. Before the study started, the average fat consumption for the participants was around 87 grams a day, and average carbohydrate intake was about 247 grams.
All participants were encouraged to eat healthily, with plenty of vegetables and fibre, while avoiding sugar and refined grains.
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Besides genetic testing, the participants were also given a test to measure whether they were "insulin resistant", that is, whether or not the individual's body responds properly to the hormone insulin, which governs how easily the person absorbs glucose from food. But there was no link whatsoever between what diet they were on and the tested genes. Several companies now sell DNA tests that claim to identify certain genetic markers that can reveal whether a person is better suited to a low-carb or low-fat diet.
"Over one year, the low-fat group lost 12 pounds on average", he tells EndocrineWeb, and "group following the low carb diet lost about 13 pounds".
"It's a huge market and readers are hungry for the "next diet fad" to try".
The researchers speculated that genes involved in how carbohydrates and fat are metabolised, as well as the production of insulin (the hormone that regulates blood sugar), would impact the success of the diets.
So, by answering some questions, the research is opening the door to new ones.
They ended up with 600 overweight volunteers and looked at differences in three genes closely linked with metabolism: PPARG, ADRB2, and FABP2.
The individuals enrolled in this study may have "cheated, " Dr. Apovian suggests, by not adhered completely to the low-fat or low-carb plan. If you think of something as a "diet", you'll eventually fall off the wagon.
But contrary to expectations, individuals randomized to a diet favored by their genotype did not lose more weight than those assigned to the mismatched diet. "Maybe we shouldn't be asking what's the best diet, but what's the best diet for whom?" said Dr Gardener, who's report elucidated "there was no significant difference in weight change between a healthy low-fat diet vs a healthy low-carbohydrate diet".