“Low Carb Diets Can Help Keep the Weight Off,” shout the latest headlines. You can read about a study newly published in the highly respected medical journal, BMJ. An article New York Times to gives useful background and caveats. Or you might run across the bold headline without much nuance from other news outlets. You could even wade through the original study (as I did). Whatever your source, you may be asking (once again), is this (low carb) The Right Diet for You?
To the debate I’d like to add two pieces of wisdom that might help you come to terms with the new study as well as the barrage of often contradictory diet advice in general:
- Studies show trends amongst groups of people. The larger and more comprehensive the study, (and the better the experimental methods and measures) the more reliably you can say that the trend applies to most people in the total population. However, you are only one person, and many factors affect your digestion and metabolism. What applies to most people may apply to you (as a single data point) a lot, a little, or even not at all.
- Studies often focus on a particular population, and in studies of weight loss, most of the studies use participants in a particular BMI range. The study in question, for instance, used participants whose BMIs were over 25 (considered overweight) and with a body weight less than 160 kg (353 pounds). That could mean these results would not apply to people with significantly greater or lower BMIs/weights.
So what does this mean for you and carbs? It means that low carb diets may be useful for many people, at least in the range of BMI’s studied. Which, in turn, suggests it might be useful to try such a diet, especially if other weight loss diets you’ve tried have either not worked or initially worked and then stopped working.
That said, it is vitally important when considering starting a new diet to:
- Check with your doctor(s) to make sure the diet is safe for you, given your medical history, conditions, and medications.
- Do your research. Read about the diet from reputable sources to make sure you understand what you should eat, as well as what you should not. On a low carb diet, for instance, you don’t limit fat. I’ve mentioned in other posts these three books I like: The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living, The New Atkins, and Fat for Fuel.
- Check in with yourself. Can this diet be aligned with your beliefs and sustainable long term?
- Find support. It’s quite difficult to succeed in any big dietary change. You might need to enlist the support of your loved ones and/or outside help in the form of a health coach, nutritionist, or support group.