A study released today in the Annals of Internal Medicine may finally put an outdated weight-loss strategy out of fashion for good. In a yearlong trial involving 150 men and women, researchers at Tulane, Kaiser Permanente and Johns Hopkins found that a low-carbohydrate diet is more effective at lowering weight and body fat than a low-fat diet.Long gone are the days of rice cake and cottage cheese diets, and there is increasing debate about the merits of avoiding fat like the plague, yet people are still reaching for the reduced fat peanut butter and getting hooked by the promise of fat-free snacks. This helps undercut the notion that fat is the enemy when it comes to weight maintenance.
In the new study, obese participants who followed a low-carb diet (less than 40 grams of digestible carbohydrates per day) lost nearly 8 pounds more than the low-fat group and 1.5 percent more body fat, even though they all ate about the same number of calories a day and had the same level of exercise. What’s more, the low-carb dieters saw greater improvement in their cardiovascular health.Interestingly, at their 3- and 6-month check-ins, the low-fat group had lost more inches around their waists, but that difference leveled out by the end of the year, perhaps a reminder that what looks like a quick fix could be a red herring. The participants had the added benefit of nutrition coaches to help guide their eating, which most of us don’t have.Needless to say (but we’ll say it anyway), this study doesn’t provide carte blanche to gorge on fatty foods, but there are foods with healthy fats that not only won’t make you fat, but will help you on your way to your weight-loss goals. And if you’re interested in following a low-carb diet to lose weight or potentially lower your risk of heart disease, you might also want to check out low-glycemic regimens, which past research has heralded as even better than just plain-old low-carb.MORE: 2 New Ways to Get Rid of Fat Without Diet or Exercise (For Real)