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Unrestricted Low-Carb Diet Wins Hands Down

Posted By Mark Sisson On July 16, 2008 @ 4:29 pm In Carbs,Diet,Health,Nutrition,Research Analysis | 40 Comments

The New England Journal of Medicine has just come out with perhaps the most definitive comparison of low-fat, Mediterranean and low-carb diets ever, and the findings [7] dovetail very nicely with what we’ve been discussing here recently about the merits of the Primal Blueprint [8]. I think it also addresses some of the concerns shared about the so-called “restrictiveness” of my PB plan.

This study looked at over 300 people who followed their assigned diets strictly for two years, making this one of the longest diet studies in recent history. The bottom line was that the low-carb diet was hands-down the most impressive at improving health in all areas. Those on the low-carb plan lost more weight, experienced a greater reduction in the dangerous C-reactive protein, lowered their triglycerides, raised their HDL cholesterol and dropped their A1C more than those on either the Mediterranean or the low-fat diets, although the Mediterranean was a close second most of the time. Of course, for those who read MDA religiously, you’ll be interested to hear that the low-fat diet was “restricted” to only 1500 calories per day for women and 1800 for men, as was the Mediterranean diet, but the low-carb diet was “unrestricted”, meaning those participants could eat all they wanted of non-carb foods (fat and protein, people). They started out at only 20 grams carbs a day for two months, then eased up to 120 grams a day maintenance at the end. Compliance was fairly high, too: of the 109 people assigned to the low-carb plan, 85 finished the entire two years.

For those of you asking for more “evidence” that the way Grok ate was healthful, I can now add this study to the ever-increasing body of work. Of course, we here at MDA can speculate (and do we ever) on why carbs are not-so-great from purely a gene-expression POV, on why fats are our “healthy friends” [9] from an evolutionary biology perspective and why proteins [10] should form the basis of a fat-burning, muscle-building Primal eating program [11]. But it sure helps that a study like this – with zero attachment to any evolutionary rationale – comes up with a parallel conclusion. This quote is taken from the paper:

The similar caloric deficit achieved in all diet groups suggests that a low-carbohydrate, non–restricted-calorie diet may be optimal for those who will not follow a restricted-calorie dietary regimen.

When will guys like Dean Ornish and John MacDougal realize they have gone way too far down the wrong low-fat path?

joshbousel [12] Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

Definitive Guide: The Primal Blueprint [13]

Mark Sisson is Not Afraid of Fat [14]

The Context of Calories

Definitive Guide to Fat [9]

The Best Low-Carb Fruits (and Worst) [15]


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[2] Primal Blueprint 101: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/primal-blueprint-101/?utm_source=mda_wwsgd&utm_medium=link&utm_campaign=mda_wwsgd_pb_101

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[7] findings: http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/359/3/229

[8] Primal Blueprint: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/what-is-the-primal-blueprint/

[9] fats are our “healthy friends”: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/fats/

[10] proteins: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/dietary-protein/

[11] Primal eating program: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/category/recipes/

[12] joshbousel: http://flickr.com/photos/joshbousel/534049967/

[13] Definitive Guide: The Primal Blueprint: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/definitive-guide-primal-blueprint/

[14] Mark Sisson is Not Afraid of Fat: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/mark-sisson-is-not-afraid-of-fat/

[15] The Best Low-Carb Fruits (and Worst): http://www.marksdailyapple.com../../best-and-worst-fruits/

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