Both low-fat and higher-fat diets are equally effective, a review of the research finds.
While decreasing dietary fat might not matter so much, there is evidence that low-carbohydrate diets can be slightly more effective.
Nevertheless, any diet will only work if an individual can stick to it.
The details of whether it is low-fat, low-carb or whatever, matter less than persistence.
Dr Deirdre Tobias, the study’s first author, said:
“Despite the pervasive dogma that one needs to cut fat from their diet in order to lose weight, the existing scientific evidence does not support low-fat diets over other dietary interventions for long-term weight loss.
In fact, we did not find evidence that is particularly supportive of any specific proportion of calories from fat for meaningful long-term weight loss.
We need to look beyond the ratios of calories from fat, carbs, and protein to a discussion of healthy eating patterns, whole foods, and portion sizes.
Finding new ways to improve diet adherence for the long-term and preventing weight gain in the first place are important strategies for maintaining a healthy weight.”
For the study, the scientists analysed the results of 53 separate studies including 68,128 people.
All compared the effects of low-fat with higher-fat diets on people trying to lose weight for at least one year.
The average weight loss over the year was six pounds — which was similar for all types of diet.
Professor Frank Hu, study co-author, said:
“Current evidence indicates that clinically meaningful weight loss can be achieved with a variety of dietary approaches.
The key is to improve long-term compliance and cardiometabolic health.
Therefore, weight loss diets should be tailored to cultural and food preferences and health conditions of the individual and should also consider long-term health consequences of the diets.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology (Tobias et al., 2019).