Effects of low-carbohydrate diets v. low-fat diets on body weight and cardiovascular risk factors: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials

Author’s abstract:

The effects of low-carbohydrate (LC) diets on body weight and cardiovascular risk are unclear, and previous studies have found varying results. Our aim was to conduct a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials (RCT), assessing the effects of LC diets v. low-fat (LF) diets on weight loss and risk factors of CVD. Studies were identified by searching MEDLINE, Embase and Cochrane Trials. Studies had to fulfill the following criteria: a RCT; the LC diet was defined in accordance with the Atkins diet, or carbohydrate intake of <20% of total energy intake; twenty subjects or more per group; the subjects were previously healthy; and the dietary intervention had a duration of 6 months or longer. Results from individual studies were pooled as weighted mean difference (WMD) using a random effect model. In all, eleven RCT with 1369 participants met all the set eligibility criteria. Compared with participants on LF diets, participants on LC diets experienced a greater reduction in body weight (WMD -2·17 kg; 95% CI -3·36, -0·99) and TAG (WMD -0·26 mmol/l; 95% CI -0·37, -0·15), but a greater increase in HDL-cholesterol (WMD 0·14 mmol/l; 95% CI 0·09, 0·19) and LDL-cholesterol (WMD 0·16 mmol/l; 95% CI 0·003, 0·33). This meta-analysis demonstrates opposite change in two important cardiovascular risk factors on LC diets–greater weight loss and increased LDL-cholesterol. Our findings suggest that the beneficial changes of LC diets must be weighed against the possible detrimental effects of increased LDL-cholesterol.

Third Exposure to a Reduced Carbohydrate Meal Lowers Evening Postprandial Insulin and GIP Responses and HOMA-IR Estimate of Insulin Resistance

Author’s abstract:


Postprandial hyperinsulinemia, hyperglycemia, and insulin resistance increase the risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D) and cardiovascular disease mortality. Postprandial hyperinsulinemia and hyperglycemia also occur in metabolically healthy subjects consuming high-carbohydrate diets particularly after evening meals and when carbohydrate loads follow acute exercise. We hypothesized the involvement of dietary carbohydrate load, especially when timed after exercise, and mediation by the glucose-dependent insulinotropic peptide (GIP) in this phenomenon, as this incretin promotes insulin secretion after carbohydrate intake in insulin-sensitive, but not in insulin-resistant states.


Four groups of eight metabolically healthy weight-matched postmenopausal women were provided with three isocaloric meals (a pre-trial meal and two meals during the trial day) containing either 30% or 60% carbohydrate, with and without two-hours of moderate-intensity exercise before the last two meals. Plasma glucose, insulin, glucagon, GIP, glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1), free fatty acids (FFAs), and D-3-hydroxybutyrate concentrations were measured during 4-h postprandial periods and 3-h exercise periods, and their areas under the curve (AUCs) were analyzed by mixed-model ANOVA, and insulin resistance during fasting and meal tolerance tests within each diet was estimated using homeostasis-model assessment (HOMA-IR).


The third low-carbohydrate meal, but not the high-carbohydrate meal, reduced: (1) evening insulin AUC by 39% without exercise and by 31% after exercise; (2) GIP AUC by 48% without exercise and by 45% after exercise, and (3) evening insulin resistance by 37% without exercise and by 24% after exercise. Pre-meal exercise did not alter insulin-, GIP- and HOMA-IR- lowering effects of low-carbohydrate diet, but exacerbated evening hyperglycemia.


Evening postprandial insulin and GIP responses and insulin resistance declined by over 30% after three meals that limited daily carbohydrate intake to 30% compared to no such changes after three 60%-carbohydrate meals, an effect that was independent of pre-meal exercise. The parallel timing and magnitude of postprandial insulin and GIP changes suggest their dependence on a delayed intestinal adaptation to a low-carbohydrate diet. Pre-meal exercise exacerbated glucose intolerance with both diets most likely due to impairment of insulin signaling by pre-meal elevation of FFAs.

Energy expenditure and body composition changes after an isocaloric ketogenic diet in overweight and obese men

Author’s abstract:

Background: The carbohydrate–insulin model of obesity posits that habitual consumption of a high-carbohydrate diet sequesters fat within adipose tissue because of hyperinsulinemia and results in adaptive suppression of energy expenditure (EE). Therefore, isocaloric exchange of dietary carbohydrate for fat is predicted to result in increased EE, increased fat oxidation, and loss of body fat. In contrast, a more conventional view that “a calorie is a calorie” predicts that isocaloric variations in dietary carbohydrate and fat will have no physiologically important effects on EE or body fat.

Objective: We investigated whether an isocaloric low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet (KD) is associated with changes in EE, respiratory quotient (RQ), and body composition.

Design: Seventeen overweight or obese men were admitted to metabolic wards, where they consumed a high-carbohydrate baseline diet (BD) for 4 wk followed by 4 wk of an isocaloric KD with clamped protein. Subjects spent 2 consecutive days each week residing in metabolic chambers to measure changes in EE (EEchamber), sleeping EE (SEE), and RQ. Body composition changes were measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. Average EE during the final 2 wk of the BD and KD periods was measured by doubly labeled water (EEDLW).

Results: Subjects lost weight and body fat throughout the study corresponding to an overall negative energy balance of ∼300 kcal/d. Compared with BD, the KD coincided with increased EEchamber (57 ± 13 kcal/d, P = 0.0004) and SEE (89 ± 14 kcal/d, P < 0.0001) and decreased RQ (−0.111 ± 0.003, P < 0.0001). EEDLWincreased by 151 ± 63 kcal/d (P = 0.03). Body fat loss slowed during the KD and coincided with increased protein utilization and loss of fat-free mass.

Conclusion: The isocaloric KD was not accompanied by increased body fat loss but was associated with relatively small increases in EE that were near the limits of detection with the use of state-of-the-art technology. This trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT01967563.

Comparison of the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet and a higher-fat DASH diet on blood pressure and lipids and lipoproteins: a randomized controlled trial

Author’s abstract:

Background: The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) dietary pattern, which is high in fruit, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods, significantly lowers blood pressure as well as low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.

Objective: The study was designed to test the effects of substituting full-fat for low-fat dairy foods in the DASH diet, with a corresponding increase in fat and a reduction in sugar intake, on blood pressure and plasma lipids and lipoproteins.

Design: This was a 3-period randomized crossover trial in free-living healthy individuals who consumed in random order a control diet, a standard DASH diet, and a higher-fat, lower-carbohydrate modification of the DASH diet (HF-DASH diet) for 3 wk each, separated by 2-wk washout periods. Laboratory measurements, which included lipoprotein particle concentrations determined by ion mobility, were made at the end of each experimental diet.

Results: Thirty-six participants completed all 3 dietary periods. Blood pressure was reduced similarly with the DASH and HF-DASH diets compared with the control diet. The HF-DASH diet significantly reduced triglycerides and large and medium very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) particle concentrations and increased LDL peak particle diameter compared with the DASH diet. The DASH diet, but not the HF-DASH diet, significantly reduced LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, apolipoprotein A-I, intermediate-density lipoprotein and large LDL particles, and LDL peak diameter compared with the control diet.

Conclusions: The HF-DASH diet lowered blood pressure to the same extent as the DASH diet but also reduced plasma triglyceride and VLDL concentrations without significantly increasing LDL cholesterol. This trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT01404897.

Dietary Intervention for Overweight and Obese Adults: Comparison of Low-Carbohydrate and Low-Fat Diets. A Meta-Analysis.

Author’s Abstract:


Reduced calorie, low fat diet is currently recommended diet for overweight and obese adults. Prior data suggest that low carbohydrate diets may also be a viable option for those who are overweight and obese.


Compare the effects of low carbohydrate versus low fats diet on weight and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease risk in overweight and obese patients.


Systematic literature review via PubMed (1966-2014).


Randomized controlled trials with ≥8 weeks follow up, comparing low carbohydrate (≤120gm carbohydrates/day) and low fat diet (≤30% energy from fat/day).


Data were extracted and prepared for analysis using double data entry. Prior to identification of candidate publications, the outcomes of change in weight and metabolic factors were selected as defined by Cochrane Collaboration. Assessment of the effects of diets on predicted risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease risk was added during the data collection phase.


1797 patients were included from 17 trials with <1 year follow up in 12. Compared with low fat diet, low carbohydrate was associated with significantly greater reduction in weight (Δ = -2.0 kg, 95% CI: -3.1, -0.9) and significantly lower predicted risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease events (p<0.03). Frequentist and Bayesian results were concordant. The probability of greater weight loss associated with low carbohydrate was >99% while the reduction in predicted risk favoring low carbohydrate was >98%.


Lack of patient-level data and heterogeneity in dropout rates and outcomes reported.


This trial-level meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials comparing LoCHO diets with LoFAT diets in strictly adherent populations demonstrates that each diet was associated with significant weight loss and reduction in predicted risk of ASCVD events. However, LoCHO diet was associated with modest but significantly greater improvements in weight loss and predicted ASCVD risk in studies from 8 weeks to 24 months in duration. These results suggest that future evaluations of dietary guidelines should consider low carbohydrate diets as effective and safe intervention for weight management in the overweight and obese, although long-term effects require further investigation.

Intake of saturated and trans unsaturated fatty acids and risk of all cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes: systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies

Author’s Abstract:


To systematically review associations between intake of saturated fat and trans unsaturated fat and all cause mortality, cardiovascular disease (CVD) and associated mortality, coronary heart disease (CHD) and associated mortality, ischemic stroke, and type 2 diabetes.


Systematic review and meta-analysis.


Medline, Embase, Cochrane Central Registry of Controlled Trials, Evidence-Based Medicine Reviews, and CINAHL from inception to 1 May 2015, supplemented by bibliographies of retrieved articles and previous reviews.


Observational studies reporting associations of saturated fat and/or trans unsaturated fat (total, industrially manufactured, or from ruminant animals) with all cause mortality, CHD/CVD mortality, total CHD, ischemic stroke, or type 2 diabetes.


Two reviewers independently extracted data and assessed study risks of bias. Multivariable relative risks were pooled. Heterogeneity was assessed and quantified. Potential publication bias was assessed and subgroup analyses were undertaken. The GRADE approach was used to evaluate quality of evidence and certainty of conclusions.


For saturated fat, three to 12 prospective cohort studies for each association were pooled (five to 17 comparisons with 90,501-339,090 participants). Saturated fat intake was not associated with all cause mortality (relative risk 0.99, 95% confidence interval 0.91 to 1.09), CVD mortality (0.97, 0.84 to 1.12), total CHD (1.06, 0.95 to 1.17), ischemic stroke (1.02, 0.90 to 1.15), or type 2 diabetes (0.95, 0.88 to 1.03). There was no convincing lack of association between saturated fat and CHD mortality (1.15, 0.97 to 1.36; P=0.10). For trans fats, one to six prospective cohort studies for each association were pooled (two to seven comparisons with 12,942-230,135 participants). Total trans fat intake was associated with all cause mortality (1.34, 1.16 to 1.56), CHD mortality (1.28, 1.09 to 1.50), and total CHD (1.21, 1.10 to 1.33) but not ischemic stroke (1.07, 0.88 to 1.28) or type 2 diabetes (1.10, 0.95 to 1.27). Industrial, but not ruminant, trans fats were associated with CHD mortality (1.18 (1.04 to 1.33) v 1.01 (0.71 to 1.43)) and CHD (1.42 (1.05 to 1.92) v 0.93 (0.73 to 1.18)). Ruminant trans-palmitoleic acid was inversely associated with type 2 diabetes (0.58, 0.46 to 0.74). The certainty of associations between saturated fat and all outcomes was “very low.” The certainty of associations of trans fat with CHD outcomes was “moderate” and “very low” to “low” for other associations.


Saturated fats are not associated with all cause mortality, CVD, CHD, ischemic stroke, or type 2 diabetes, but the evidence is heterogeneous with methodological limitations. Trans fats are associated with all cause mortality, total CHD, and CHD mortality, probably because of higher levels of intake of industrial trans fats than ruminant trans fats. Dietary guidelines must carefully consider the health effects of recommendations for alternative macronutrients to replace trans fats and saturated fats.

Weight Loss on Low-Fat vs. Low-Carbohydrate Diets by Insulin Resistance Status Among Overweight Adults and Adults With Obesity: A Randomized Pilot Trial

Author’s abstract:

Objective: To test for differential weight loss response to low-fat (LF) vs. low-carbohydrate (LC) diets by insulin resistance status with emphasis on overall quality of both diets.

Methods: Sixty-one adults, BMI 28-40 kg/m2, were randomized in a 2 3 2 design to LF or LC by insulin resistance status in this pilot study. Primary outcome was 6-month weight change. Participants were characterized as more insulin resistant (IR) or more insulin sensitive (IS) by median split of baseline insulin-area-under-the-curve from an oral glucose tolerance test. Intervention consisted of 14 one-hour class-based educational sessions.

Results: Baseline % carbohydrate:% fat:% protein was 44:38:18. At 6 months, the LF group reported 57:21:22 and the LC group reported 22:53:25 (IR and IS combined). Six-month weight loss (kg) was 7.4 6 6.0 (LF-IR), 10.4 6 7.8 (LF-IS), 9.6 6 6.6 (LC-IR), and 8.6 6 5.6 (LC-IS). No significant main effects were detected for weight loss by diet group or IR status; there was no significant diet 3 IR interaction. Significant differences in several secondary outcomes were observed.

Conclusions: Substantial weigh t loss was achieved overall, but a significant diet 3 IR status interaction was not observed. Opportunity to detect differential response may have been limited by the focus on high diet qualit y for both diet groups and sample size.

Evidence from randomised controlled trials did not support the introduction of dietary fat guidelines in 1977 and 1983: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Author’s abstract:

Objectives National dietary guidelines were introduced in 1977 and 1983, by the US and UK governments, respectively, with the ambition of reducing coronary heart disease (CHD) by reducing fat intake. To date, no analysis of the evidence base for these recommendations has been undertaken. The present study examines the evidence from randomised controlled trials (RCTs) available to the US and UK regulatory committees at their respective points of implementation.

Methods A systematic review and meta-analysis were undertaken of RCTs, published prior to 1983, which examined the relationship between dietary fat, serum cholesterol and the development of CHD.

Results 2467 males participated in six dietary trials: five secondary prevention studies and one including healthy participants. There were 370 deaths from all-cause mortality in the intervention and control groups. The risk ratio (RR) from meta-analysis was 0.996 (95% CI 0.865 to 1.147). There were 207 and 216 deaths from CHD in the intervention and control groups, respectively. The RR was 0.989 (95% CI 0.784 to 1.247). There were no differences in all-cause mortality and non-significant differences in CHD mortality, resulting from the dietary interventions. The reductions in mean serum cholesterol levels were significantly higher in the intervention groups; this did not result in significant differences in CHD or all-cause mortality. Government dietary fat recommendations were untested in any trial prior to being introduced.

Conclusions Dietary recommendations were introduced for 220 million US and 56 million UK citizens by 1983, in the absence of supporting evidence from RCTs.

Comparison of low- and high-carbohydrate diets for type 2 diabetes management: a randomized trial

This abstract is available at Pubmed.gov:


To comprehensively compare the effects of a very low-carbohydrate, high-unsaturated/low-saturated fat diet (LC) with those of a high-unrefined carbohydrate, low-fat diet (HC) on glycemic control and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors in type 2 diabetes (T2DM).


Obese adults (n = 115, BMI 34.4 ± 4.2 kg/m(2), age 58 ± 7 years) with T2DM were randomized to a hypocaloric LC diet (14% carbohydrate [<50 g/day], 28% protein, and 58% fat [<10% saturated fat]) or an energy-matched HC diet (53% carbohydrate, 17% protein, and 30% fat [<10% saturated fat]) combined with structured exercise for 24 weeks. The outcomes measured were as follows: glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c), glycemic variability (GV; assessed by 48-h continuous glucose monitoring), antiglycemic medication changes (antiglycemic medication effects score [MES]), and blood lipids and pressure.


A total of 93 participants completed 24 weeks. Both groups achieved similar completion rates (LC 79%, HC 82%) and weight loss (LC -12.0 ± 6.3 kg, HC -11.5 ± 5.5 kg); P ≥ 0.50. Blood pressure (-9.8/-7.3 ± 11.6/6.8 mmHg), fasting blood glucose (-1.4 ± 2.3 mmol/L), and LDL cholesterol (-0.3 ± 0.6 mmol/L) decreased, with no diet effect (P ≥ 0.10). LC achieved greater reductions in triglycerides (-0.5 ± 0.5 vs. -0.1 ± 0.5 mmol/L), MES (-0.5 ± 0.5 vs. -0.2 ± 0.5), and GV indices; P ≤ 0.03. LC induced greater HbA1c reductions (-2.6 ± 1.0% [-28.4 ± 10.9 mmol/mol] vs. -1.9 ± 1.2% [-20.8 ± 13.1 mmol/mol]; P = 0.002) and HDL cholesterol (HDL-C) increases (0.2 ± 0.3 vs. 0.05 ± 0.2 mmol/L; P = 0.007) in participants with the respective baseline values HbA1c >7.8% (62 mmol/mol) and HDL-C <1.29 mmol/L.


Both diets achieved substantial improvements for several clinical glycemic control and CVD risk markers. These improvements and reductions in GV and antiglycemic medication requirements were greatest with the LC compared with HC. This suggests an LC diet with low saturated fat may be an effective dietary approach for T2DM management if effects are sustained beyond 24 weeks.

Exploring the relationship between preferences for high fat foods and efficacy of the ketogenic and modified Atkins diets among children with seizure disorders

This abstract is available at Pubmed.gov:


Previous research has indicated that children with seizures may prefer high fat foods – a preference compatible with ketogenic and modified Atkins dietary therapies. The purpose of this prospective study was to examine the relationship between fat preference and efficacy of therapeutic diets in treating intractable seizures among a pediatric population.


Preference for high fat foods was directly assessed in a sample of 30 children prior to commencing either the ketogenic or modified Atkins diet. Seizure control was assessed at 1, 3, 6, and 12 months following diet initiation. Using an intent-to-treat analysis, correlations between fat preference and diet efficacy were examined at each follow-up and across the follow-up period.


At individual follow-ups, correlations between fat preference and diet efficacy varied in terms of both strength and significance; however, modest, positive correlations with fat preference were significant when examining high levels of efficacy (100% seizure reduction, ≥90% seizure reduction) across a 1-year follow-up period.


These findings provide preliminary evidence that fat preference, when directly assessed, may be a useful predictor of treatment efficacy for the ketogenic and modified Atkins diets; however, further research is necessary.