Study Compares Veggie Diets vs. Low-Carb --UPDATE--

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Steven Acocella, MS, DC, DACBN and does NOT necessarily represent the opinions of DiseaseProof or Dr. Fuhrman.

At the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center in Maryland and published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association researchers evaluated the short to medium term weight loss results of popular diets. Popular diets: correlation to health, nutrition, and obesity grouped the most popular diets into categories based upon the prescribed ratios of energy for each macronutrient. If you remember from Nutrition 101, caloric energy comes from only 3 sources, fat, carbohydrate and protein. For example, diets such as The South Beach Diet and The Atkins Diet derive 50% or more calories from fat while Dr. Fuhrman’s Eat to Live derives the majority of energy from natural, unrefined carbohydrate.

The study looked at food intake over a 2 year period and included several hundred participants who followed the various diet styles compliantly. They then analyzed the relationship between a reduction of Body Mass Index (BMI), the diet style and the Healthy Eating Index (HEI).

The Healthy Eating Index scores were highest for the vegetarian or near vegetarian diet style and lowest for the low carbohydrate, high fat diets. Conversely, energy intake was highest for the Low Carbohydrate group, often exceeding the average accepted recommendations of 2000 Kcal/day or men and 1500 Kcal/day for women. This is strange considering these were weight loss eating plans that were followed intently.

The weight loss results were no surprise. The healthiest body mass was seen in the vegetarian group. A direct, proportional relationship was seen with a rise in the percentage of calories derived from fat and BMI. As the percentage of fat calories increased so did those subject’s BMI. Total calories were also directly related to the percentage of dietary fat with the average daily energy intake for the vegetarian or nearly vegetarian group consuming 1450 Kcal/day and the high fat diet group consuming 2200 Kcal/day. Researchers noted the relationship between the Healthy Eating Index verses calorie and fat percentages were inversely related.

Putting all this together, this important study using an excellent group of subjects has made the following observations: diets low in fat have the highest Healthy Eating Index scores and are generally the lowest in total calories. Those subjects on these diets enjoyed the most favorable BMI measurements and other biomarkers of health. Conversely, the high fat, low carbohydrate diet styles have the lowest Healthy Eating Index scores and those that consumed this diet style had poor BMI measurements and other indicators of health.

It is worth mentioning that the authors of this study discuss a review of the literature suggests that weight loss is independent of dietary composition and is solely a result of total calories consumed. They suggest that their findings, although supportive of this confers that successful, healthy weight loss over time is a function of quality as well as quantity.

UPDATE: Dr. Fuhrman had some thoughts on Steven’s post:

My health equation, Health = Nutrition / Calories is almost entirely ignored by the scientific community. If the micronutrient density index of a particular diet was published along with the other characteristics researchers would place less emphasis on the relative macronutrient composition and more on the micronutrient composition. Nevertheless, the long-term health potential of a given diet is based so much more on its micronutrient profile rather than its macronutrient profile.

Image credit: altopower