Your Low Fat Diet Plan May Be Useless: Study

15/11/2015 10:03 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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Girl eating It's-It ice cream sandwich on a hot summer day.

NEW DELHI -- Diwali is over and the binging on sweets that comes with the much-loved festival would have made many think of losing some weight. Here is a reality check on what diets to subscribe to.

Dieting is hard to comply and only a very few lose weight from dieting on a long-term basis. Now a new study surprisingly indicates that sticking to 'low fat diets' has little consequence on long term weight loss.

'Low fat' labels advertised on foods attract many gullible consumers. New studies may just force the huge 'low fat healthy foods' industry to go in for a re-think, or at least the consumers can question them.

For any weight-loss program what matters most is that more calories are burnt than what are consumed and towards this exercising regularly is the best option with restrained intake of food.

Analysing this long-term study the leading British journal Nature concluded 'decade's worth of medical advice was misguided' on low fat diets. Interestingly the researchers find that none of the diets works very well and a year after being on diets on an average people lost only 5 kg. A hardly impressive figure for the effort needed to comply to strict diets. It may sound small but experts say it does medically benefit the patient.

When confronted with a choice on the dining table should one opt for a low fat but high carbohydrate option like having the south Indian delicacy idli or tuck in fried 'puri and kachori'.

A new study published in The Lancet: Diabetes & Endocrinology suggests that 'evidence does not support low-fat diets over other dietary interventions for long-term weight loss'. If the latest study is to be believed the latter would do no more or less harm in the long run.

Experts say Indian obesity is linked to carbohydrate intake as compared to obesity in western countries that is linked to large consumption of fats.

This huge analysis spearheaded by scientists from the Harvard Medical School in Boston carefully sifted through at data from 53 published weight loss studies that included more than 68,000 people and it has found that despite their popularity low fat diets are no more effective than surprise- surprise high fat diets in the long term for effective weight loss.

"Low fat diets are no better than high fat diets," concurs Dr Ambrish Mithal, Head of Endocrinology and Diabetes Division of the Medanta Hospital, Gurgaon, adding what really matters is "what goes in and what gets burnt".

India stares at huge epidemic of obesity, a new study by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) finds. A landmark study found that nearly 13 per cent of the 1.2 billion population could be suffering from obesity. The India Diabetes Study was spearheaded by the ICMR finds that a huge number 153 million that is comparable to the half the population of the US could be suffering from abdominal obesity or what is colloquially called having a large paunch or a pear shaped body.

If one needs to maintain low body mass, then Mithal says what matters most is that one burns more calories than consumes. Towards that, a low fat diet may seem attractive since fats have a lot more stored energy as compared to carbohydrates.

However, on the flip side Mithal says people on low fat diets end up eating more carbohydrates to satiate their appetites. Compliance becomes a huge problem.

Indian diets are high on calories and low on fibers, says V Mohan, a specialist on diabetes from Chennai, adding rice accounts for almost half of the calorific intake in Indians.

Polished rice is mostly carbohydrates.

Concurring with the findings of The Lancet (D&E) is Ishi Khosla, one of India's best-known nutrition and dietary habits experts who says "the relevance of low fat diet shifted for over two decades in clinical practice in favour of low carbohydrate diets and good fats. This was prompted by the recognition of the benefits of high fat Mediterranean diets and the French paradox. This in fact was more relevant in the Indian population burdened with the epidemic of diabetes. Low fat diets are high in carbohydrates which is counterproductive."

Incidentally, most diet plans fared poorly especially when long-term weight loss was measured over more than a one-year period. This is probably because people getting into a diet plan follow it rather strictly in the beginning but as time passes they start consuming the same amount of calories and start gaining weight.

Mithal says the large public health message from the huge study is rather simple if you have to lose weight, eat fewer calories and burn them and a balanced diet helps to that faster as compared to trying sticking by the current fad to 'low fat' diets.

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