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Low-Carb Diet Performs Well In National Study

A new study is adding more fodder to the debate about whether a low fat or low carbohydrate diet is better for weight loss and overall health.

In one of the first long-term trials that did not include calorie restrictions, scientists compared people on a low-fat diet to another group on a low-carbohydrate plan.

After a year, the people on the low-carb diet lost about eight pounds more than the low-fat group.

Registered dietician Natalie Johnson of Rochester Regional Health System says the low-carb diet was different than a typical Atkins-type plan.                               

"Because the majority of their fat intake was unsaturated fat,” Johnstone said. “They were eating more nuts, olive oils, vegetables. The key here is that they cut down on processed foods, which is key for health and weight loss."

Johnstone points out that the study's participants did not change their physical activity. "You have to think about carbs as healthy things, like fruits; fruits are carbohydrates. One thing that this study didn't do is have them increase exercise. If you're going to increase exercise, you really need a bit more carbs in your diet to fuel the exercise."

Many nutritionists and health professionals have advised against low-carb diets like the Atkins diet, because of fears that cholesterol levels would rise.

This latest study showed that was not the case.  The participants in the low-carb group saw greater reductions in body fat than the low-fat group, and more lean muscle mass.  The low-carb group also saw a reduction in triglyceride levels and an increase in their HDL, or "good" cholesterol.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Beth Adams joined WXXI as host of Morning Edition in 2012 after a more than two-decade radio career. She was the longtime host of the WHAM Morning News in Rochester. Her career also took her from radio stations in Elmira, New York, to Miami, Florida.