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What does weight loss really depend on: Diet, genes or insulin levels?

What does weight loss really depend on: Diet, genes or insulin levels?

Researchers also looked at insulin response, also previously linked to diet response, but found this didn't affect which diet worked best either.

Despite some earlier studies claiming that genetic variants predict whether someone has a better chance of shedding pounds on a low-carbohydrate or a low-fat diet, and despite a growing industry premised on that notion, the most rigorous study so far found no difference in weight loss between overweight people on diets that "matched" their genotype and those on diets that didn't. "In the context of these 2 common weight loss diet approaches, neither of the 2 hypothesised predisposing factors was helpful in identifying which diet was better for whom". The new study, to be published February 20 in JAMA, homed in on genetics and insulin, seeking to discover if these nuances of biology would encourage an individual's body to favor a low-carbohydrate diet or a low-fat diet. The other group went low-fat, starting with no more than 20 grams of fat per day, the equivalent to a handful of nuts. The whole group attended nutrition classes, and each person was directed to minimize their intake of sugars, refined flours and trans fats while eating plenty of vegetables and nutrient-dense foods. At the end of the 12 months, those on a low-fat diet reported a daily average fat intake of 57 grams; those on low-carb ingested about 132 grams of carbohydrates per day.

During the first 8 weeks, participants were told to limit their daily carbohydrate or fat intake to just 20g, the equivalent of a slice and a half of bread.

It turns out it makes no difference which diet you choose – they are just as good as each other.

According to the DIETFITS (Diet Intervention Examining The Factors Interacting with Treatment Success) trial, weight loss after 12 months was similar between the diet types, with an average weight loss of 11.68 pounds for the healthy low-fat (HLF) diet and 12.23 pounds for the healthy low-carbohydrate group (HLC) (mean between-group difference, 1.54 pounds, 95% CI -0.44 to 3.53 pounds). Some people gained weight, and some lost as much as 50 to 60 pounds.

Study leader Professor Christopher Gardner said fizzy drinks, for example, may be low in fat but they are not healthy.

The latest study made sure participants stuck to their diets so the results would be more accurate.

Of course, losing some weight, any weight is important to reduce health risks, but it will serve individuals best if they can maintain the lost weight so committing to changes in their relationship to food matters most, the experts agree.

"We really stressed to both groups again and again that we wanted them to eat high-quality foods", Gardner said.

"At the end of the year, people on the low-fat diet lost an average of nearly 12 pounds, compared with about 13 pounds for the low-carb diet". "But let's cut to the chase: We didn't replicate [our previous] study, we didn't even come close". By selecting the type of diet they could stick to, their weight loss, he says, has less to do with whether the diet is low carb or low fat. "Also, we advised them to diet in a way that didn't make them feel hungry or deprived - otherwise it's hard to maintain the diet in the long run", said Gardner.

Gene activity is undoubtedly involved in the process of gaining and losing weight, this study simply shows that these particular predisposing variants (many others have also been identified) are now unable to lead us toward personalized, magic wand diet plans.

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