Low Carb or Low Fat Diet?

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According to the CDC, (Central Disease Control and Prevention) , about 93.3 million adults suffer from obesity in America as of 2016. That is nearly 30% of the entire population of America. I say “suffer” because obesity acts and is treated like an epidemic, affecting an enormous amount of people and for their entire lives. This is so much of a burden, that the average obese adult will pay around $1,500 more in medical costs than a person of normal weight. A major cause of obesity in America is a poor choice of diet. From this observation, we can narrow it all down into one question, which is the best diet for weight loss. In searching for differentiated diets, I came across and decided to do research on two of the most common diets: low carb and low fat. Some think that this question would be an easy decision and go on to pick low carb because carbohydrate essentially means sugar, and sugar sounds culpable to weight gain, or they might pick low fat, because the word fat does not sound very nutritional or healthy to have on a diet, so they choose this diet to cut it out. It then turns into a large dispute between parties on which is a better option marginally, followed by experiments depending on weight loss over a period of time. However, it is much deeper than just weight loss and what sounds right. The real question to be asked here is: “Which diet will help me reach my intended weight AND still keep me healthy?”

Even though the main goal is to test overall health, a good basis is to see which of the diets produces the greatest percentage of weight loss. In an experiment conducted by multiple MDs of the New Balance Foundation, eight different subjects were closely monitored while on either a low carb or a low fat diet. According to the article: “?At 6 months, there are differences in percent weight loss, with low-carb diets leading in percent loss (12)”. Conversely, “low-carbohydrate diet was better with regard to dyslipidemia and glycemic control after adjustment for differences in weight loss. (12)” What this article is saying is that low carb not only produces a greater percentage of weight loss, it also deals with dyslipidemia, which is described as an abnormally elevated level of cholesterol or fats found in the bloodstream, a common symptom of obesity. What this means for low carb is that it is both efficient at producing weight loss and is an overall healthier diet compared to low fat.

One confusing distinction in dieting and bodily health is the difference between blood sugar and blood pressure. When you have high blood pressure, it is generally a side effect of diabetes and can be caused by overeating, not exercising enough, missing medicines, high stress levels, illness. Blood pressure is the force pushing against the artery walls, and if this force or pressure is too high, it can lead to a number of things, including: ?nosebleeds, headaches, or dizziness, heart attack, and a stroke. High blood pressure is more commonly referred to as hypertension.

Carbohydrates include foods like grain products, such as bread, crackers, pasta and rice. These carbs break down into glucose during the process of digestion, and glucose is what fuels our body and gives us energy. Even though carbohydrates in these experiments are proven to be healthier against cutting out fats from your diet, cutting out carbs still might be unhealthy for you. Despite a low carbohydrate diet being more beneficial in regard to symptoms like dyslipidemia, cutting out carbohydrates is cutting out your source of energy. In the opinion of Harvard Medical School, by going on a low carb diet “you deprive your body of a main source of fuel — and many essential nutrients that you need to stay healthy. (2)”

Many people confuse the likes of low-carb diets and low-sugar diet. A carbohydrate is either a starch, a sugar, or a fiber. What a low sugar diet is more focused on sugars that are added to a product or is referring to processed foods. Processing food is to change the form of a natural agricultural food or crop by using unnatural means. For example, potato chips are considered a processed food. This is because to create a potato chip, you would take a natural crop like a potato and cut and fry it unnaturally, creating the potato chip. A low sugar diet will commonly steer clear of these products, because they use preservatives and added sugars that are unhealthy altogether, while low carb diets demand abstinence from a wider variety of food. An article by Reid Health does not take a stance on low carb but says: “Bottom line, you should avoid added sugar, processed foods, refined grains (like white bread), sodas, other sugary drinks and sweets as much as possible. To help you look and feel your best, you should choose nutrient-dense, healthy carbohydrates. (5)”

While carbohydrates can be made out to be beneficial in most ways, it can at the same time be detrimental to your health. An article written by Harvard Medical School explains that are unprocessed carbohydrates are the same. Specifically that “All carbohydrates turn into glucose and raise our blood sugar. But some do it faster than others. Controlling blood glucose is important for weight management as well as diabetes control. (Harvard 3)” Judging from this statement, even though carbs are the human body’s main source of energy, carbohydrate intake at the very least should be monitored because it can cause a spectrum of complications caused by high blood sugar or hypertension. For example, hypertension can cause severe damage to your blood vessels connected to your brain, resulting in a stroke. What is trying to be said here is that something as small as deciding what you eat can lead to a variety of unfavorable outcomes, sometimes resulting in serious injury or even death. Watching what you eat, aspects like your carb intake and the difference of refined and regular carbs.

When people hear the word “fat”, it immediately receives a bad connotation in their mind. They are not entirely wrong in thinking this, as fats by general definition are described as ?a “natural oily or greasy substance occurring in animal bodies, especially when deposited as a layer under the skin or around certain organs.” This definition makes fat to be something gross or unhealthy. However, according to the MedicalNewsToday.Com article written by ?Christian Nordqvist?, fats are put into a different light. He says that “?Fat is a nutrient. It is crucial for normal body function, and without it, we could not live. Not only does fat supply us with energy, it also makes it possible for other nutrients to do their jobs. (?Nordqvist?)?” This puts a different take on what we think fats to be. If fats can be good, and are supposedly “necessary nutrients”, why are there so many low fat diets out there?

Many people truly believe that anything associated with fat is a bad thing for your body. An article from Harvard Health Publishing affirms this intuition. It states that “?Eating foods rich in trans ?fats? increases the amount of ?harmful? LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream and reduces the amount of beneficial HDL cholesterol. (Harvard 13)’’ It may be confusing the difference between fats and trans fats, but put simply, regular fats are natural, trans fats are created during processing. What this article points out is that trans fats specifically raise your LDL cholesterol and gets rid of HDL cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is what puts you at risk of a heart attack and other heart problems and HDL cholesterol is beneficial because it removes harmful cholesterol from the bloodstream. Fats, in this way are more harmful than beneficial towards your body because they heighten your level of unhealthy cholesterol and increase the risk of heart attacks and complications.

Most foods that we eat today commonly contain trans fats, so the spectrum of a low fat diet can be very extensive. On a low fat diet, rather than watching the specific food you are eating, you have to take it further and look into the “Nutrition Facts” of what you are eating. An informational article from the American Cancer Society shares some tips on watching your trans fat intake, saying that “?A good rule of thumb when you’re reading food labels: For every 100 calories, if the product has 3 grams of fat or less, it’s a low-fat product. This means 30% or less of the calories come from fat. (ACS 7)” This can can help you get a good idea of what you are looking for in the diet, as Nutrition Facts are available prior to purchase and are posted in most restaurants as well. This makes any low fat easier to follow, because you play less of a guessing game when you are watching what you eat.

Fat, whether or not a good thing or a bad thing, is irrefutably a major source of energy. In fact, fat contains more than twice the number of calories of an equal amount of carbohydrate or protein . In health.gov’s article about low fat diets, it shows how and why you should choose a low fat diet over any other diet, not just over a low carb diet. It gives the notion that at most 30% of the total calories you get from a meal should come from fats . Using the articles specific example, “Cutting back on fat can help you consume fewer calories. For example, at 2,000 calories per day, the suggested upper limit of calories from fat is about 600 calories. (1)” It is a widely known fact that the average man needs around 2,500 calories a day, but this author uses the figure 2,000 because ?the average man needs 2000 to lose one pound of weight per week (). Connecting these two facts, cutting back on fat is one way to lose weight because cutting back on fat is also reducing the amount of calories you consume, which is necessary for losing weight.

Food items that are low in fat/trans fat content include: ?egg whites or egg substitutes crab, white fish, shrimp, and light tuna (packed in water) chicken and turkey breast (no skin), or ground turkey breast (7). These items are only a handful of items still available on a fat restricting diet. Some of the more obvious option are most non-processed foods, as stated earlier that trans fats come from processing.

Some of the non-food-related benefits that fat has is insulation. Fat connects to muscles with a specialized connecting tissue. This fat then insulates the body, regulating the interior temperature (Harvard 2). While this is one of the only benefits fat has when attaching to your body, it is a huge factor in what looks and actually is healthy. This means that having a bit of fat on your body is not as much of a bad thing as people make it out to be. Even though a person “looks better” or looks skinnier than another person, that heavier person might be in a healthier condition than the other because the fat is not a bad thing, all it means is that it has to do with moderation. “Too much of a good thing isn’t such a good thing”.

Something to consider when comparing the two diets (low fat and low carb) is that the experiment shown earlier displayed that low carb was favorable to percent lost in weight, but showed over time showed that both diets ferred more or less the same when it came to loss percentage.

Many people often confuse the concepts of dieting and eating healthy. The difference between the two is actually quite simple. Dieting usually entails that the person partaking in the diet is trying to lose weight or lessen the symptoms of obesity, such as hypertension or dyslipidemia. Eating healthy is merely trying to put your body in a healthy state. Another aspect of eating healthy is that what you can eat is not nearly as restrictive as what you can eat with a diet is. Eating healthy has more to do with spiritual and mental health and dieting focuses on physical health and appearance. The concept of eating healthy is more abstract because you are setting a broad goal for yourself and dieting is constant revisiting and reevaluating. Put simply, when you are on a diet, you are trying to follow something and when you are eating healthy, you are following yourself.(Ross 11)

It is always hard to decide which diet to go on because even though you already have a goal in mind of what you want to weigh, what you want to look like, what you want to be able to do again, you might not yet understand your needs or what your body can physically handle. You might steer towards a low carb diet if you have high levels of blood sugar or hypertension, or if you have an unhealthy amount of fat or are solely trying to lose weight, you would go towards low fat because that way you reduce your calorie intake. It is very important to know what your body needs and is capable of because if you chose the wrong diet, you could end up hurting yourself. Before even considering going on a diet, you need to look at the situation from a logical standpoint. If you are 12 and under, unless you have special circumstances whereas you physically need to diet, it is probably not safe to diet because you have no idea what your body needs quite yet. When you are contemplating going on a diet, get a third and fourth opinion, typically from your doctor because their job is to make sure you are in good health. Taking all the risks and dangers is a very important aspect of making changes to your body.

In conducting this research, while seemingly indecisive, I can draw from the research and knowledge that I obtained, that a low fat diet diet is a more optimal option for a diet than a low carbohydrate diet. This comes from the beneficial aspects of each diet, Low Fat clearly outweighing Low Carb in many ways. One aspect of these benefits that convinced me to draw this conclusion is the fact that Low Fat not only lowers the level of LDL cholesterol in your bloodstream, it is already helping you lose weight by reducing your calorie intake. It also seems more favorable to follow than Low Carb because it uses specific figures and numbers to follow, available in restaurants and on labeled food, while with Low Carb it is more of a guessing game. Finally, the last notion of this diet that leads me to believe that this is the better diet is that in a Low Carb diet, you are cutting your main source of energy, while in a Low Fat, you are only cutting a partial source of energy, which was necessary to cut if you wanted to lose weight in the first place.

My hypothesis is going to look similar to an experiment previously mentioned in the research. If I test multiple people on the same diet and see the effects of the diet over time, I believe that the Low Fat diet will show more of a difference health and weight wise than the Low Carb diet because of the research I have conducted. Even though the bodies of the subjects will have different abilities and different needs, the LF diet will have a more visually apparent effect that a LC diet will.


Works Cited

1. “Choose a Diet Low in Fat, Saturated Fat, and Cholesterol.” ?Chapter 6 Fats?, health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga95/lowfat.htm. 2. Harvard Health Publishing. “Carbohydrates - Good or Bad for You?” ?Harvard Health Blog?, Harvard Health Publishing, www.health.harvard.edu/diet-and-weight-loss/carbohydrates--good-or-bad-for-you. 3. Harvard Health Publishing. “The Truth about Fats: the Good, the Bad, and the in-Between.” Harvard Health Blog?, Harvard Health Publishing, www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-truth-about-fats-bad-and-good. 4. “High Blood Pressure (Hypertension).” ?Mayo Clinic,? Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 12 May 2018, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/symptoms-causes/syc-2037 3410. 5. Hospital, Reid. “| Reid Health - Right Beside You.” ?Reid Health?, www.reidhealth.org/carbohydrates-101-the-benefits-of-carbohydrates/. 6. “How Many Calories Should You Eat Per Day to Lose Weight?” ?Healthline?, Healthline Media, www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-many-calories-per-day. 7. “Low Fat Foods.” ?American Cancer Society,? www.cancer.org/healthy/eat-healthy-get-active/take-control-your-weight/low-fat-foods.ht ml. 8. Nordqvist, Christian. “Types of Fat: The Good and the Bad.” ?Medical News Today?, Johnson 11 MediLexicon International, 22 June 2017, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/141442.php. 9. “Overweight & Obesity.” ?Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 13 Aug. 2018, www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html. 10. “Processed Foods What’s OK and What to Avoid.” ?Eat Right. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.,? www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/nutrition-facts-and-food-labels/processed-foods-whats-ok -and-what-to-avoid. 11. Ross, Harling. “The Difference Between Dieting and Eating Healthy.” ?Man Repeller,? 16 Aug. 2018, www.manrepeller.com/2018/01/difference-between-dieting-and-eating-healthy.html ?. 12. “Authors.” Prospective versus Retrospective Studies, sphweb.bumc.bu.edu/otlt/MPH-Modules/PH/NutritionModules/Popular_Diets/Popular_Di ets_print.html. 13. “Authors.” Prospective versus Retrospective Studies, sphweb.bumc.bu.edu/otlt/MPH-Modules/PH/NutritionModules/Popular_Diets/Popular_Di ets_print.html.

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Low Carb or Low Fat Diet?. (2019, Feb 12). Retrieved July 13, 2024 , from

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