Metabolic effects of weight loss on a very-low-carbohydrate diet compared with an isocaloric high-carbohydrate diet in abdominally obese subjects

Jeannie Tay, Grant D Brinkworth, Manny Noakes, Jennifer Keogh, Peter M Clifton
Journal of the American College of Cardiology 2008 January 1, 51 (1): 59-67

OBJECTIVES: This study was designed to compare the effects of an energy-reduced, isocaloric very-low-carbohydrate, high-fat (VLCHF) diet and a high-carbohydrate, low-fat (HCLF) diet on weight loss and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk outcomes.

BACKGROUND: Despite the popularity of the VLCHF diet, no studies have compared the chronic effects of weight loss and metabolic change to a conventional HCLF diet under isocaloric conditions.

METHODS: A total of 88 abdominally obese adults were randomly assigned to either an energy-restricted (approximately 6 to 7 MJ, 30% deficit), planned isocaloric VLCHF or HCLF diet for 24 weeks in an outpatient clinical trial. Body weight, blood pressure, fasting glucose, lipids, insulin, apolipoprotein B (apoB), and C-reactive protein (CRP) were measured at weeks 0 and 24.

RESULTS: Weight loss was similar in both groups (VLCHF -11.9 +/- 6.3 kg, HCLF -10.1 +/- 5.7 kg; p = 0.17). Blood pressure, CRP, fasting glucose, and insulin reduced similarly with weight loss in both diets. The VLCHF diet produced greater decreases in triacylglycerols (VLCHF -0.64 +/- 0.62 mmol/l, HCLF -0.35 +/- 0.49 mmol/l; p = 0.01) and increases in high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) (VLCHF 0.25 +/- 0.28 mmol/l, HCLF 0.08 +/- 0.17 mmol/l; p = 0.002). Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) decreased in the HCLF diet but remained unchanged in the VLCHF diet (VLCHF 0.06 +/- 0.58 mmol/l, HCLF -0.46 +/- 0.71 mmol/l; p < 0.001). However, a high degree of individual variability for the LDL response in the VLCHF diet was observed, with 24% of individuals reporting an increase of at least 10%. The apoB levels remained unchanged in both diet groups.

CONCLUSIONS: Under isocaloric conditions, VLCHF and HCLF diets result in similar weight loss. Overall, although both diets had similar improvements for a number of metabolic risk markers, an HCLF diet had more favorable effects on the blood lipid profile. This suggests that the potential long-term effects of the VLCHF diet for CVD risk remain a concern and that blood lipid levels should be monitored. (Long-term health effects of high and low carbohydrate, weight loss diets in obese subjects with the metabolic syndrome;; ACTR No. 12606000203550).

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