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Wodraska: Diets and the low-calorie myth

Published January 26, 2012 3:46 pm

Nutrition • Eating good proteins and fats keeps you feeling full.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

If you still believe that drastically cutting calories is the best way to lose weight, I hope a new study will get you to change your thinking.

Researchers at the Genesis Prevention Center at University Hospital in South Manchester, England, found that restricting carbohydrates for two days a week is a better approach than the typical calorie-restricting diet most people use for weight loss and reducing insulin levels.

The researchers studied a group of 115 women, all of whom had a family history of breast cancer — reducing weight and insulin help prevent breast cancer.

The women were split into three groups.

One group followed a calorie-restricted, low-carbohydrate diet for two days a week.

Another group followed an "ad lib" low-carb diet for two days a week. They were allowed to eat unlimited protein and healthy fats such as lean meats, olives and nuts for two days.

The third group followed a standard calorie-restricted daily "Mediterranean" diet for seven days a week.

Over the four-month experiment, the two-day low-carbohydrate diet and the ad-lib diet were better for reducing weight, body fat and insulin resistance, according to the study.

The two-day low-carbohydrate diet and ad-lib approaches resulted in an average of 9 pounds lost compared with just 5 pounds on the standard Mediterranean approach.

Insulin resistance was reduced by 22 percent with the two-day restricted low-carbohydrate diet and by 14 percent with the ad-lib diet. The Mediterranean diet reduced insulin resistance by just 4 percent.

As with any study, there are different ways in which the results can be interpreted. But a few things stand out to me.

The results reinforce the notion that consistently restricting calories as a means to lose weight doesn't work. Your body is smart, and if all you do is restrict calories, your metabolism will slow (it thinks you're starving), and it becomes more difficult to lose weight.

While the study doesn't say the amount of fats and oils the Mediterranean dieters were allowed, those women were obviously on a more restricted diet than the ad-libbers.

Mediterranean diets, which emphasize fruits, vegetables, nuts and lean meats, are often a great starting point for most who are trying to lose weight because it is a healthier diet than the fast-food, highly processed diet most Americans consume.

Restricting healthy proteins along with high-quality fats and oils can have a negative effect on the body because most people — particularly of European descent — require a healthy amount to keep their metabolism balanced and firing.

Eating proper proportions of fats and oils can actually mean you eat fewer calories over a longer period of time. They make you feels satiated, which curbs the need for snacking and keeps the blood sugar levels better maintained.

Ultimately, the best way to maintain weight is to avoid the highly restrictive diets and instead eat a well-rounded diet of proteins, carbs, fats and oils in proportions that best fit your needs.

Lya Wodraska is a certified CHEK Practitioner and Holistic Lifestyle Coach. E-mail her at Lwodraska@sltrib.com; follow her on Twitter @LyaWodraska or on Facebook at facebook.com/lyatribune.