(Minimally Processed) Low Fat vs. Ketogenic Diet: No Clear Winner


A controlled feeding trial conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found no evidence that a healthy ketogenic diet was better than a healthy low fat, high carbohydrate diet for hunger or fat accumulation over two weeks. Participants lived in a lab at the NIH for four weeks. For two weeks, participants were provided a plant-based, extremely low fat diet (around 10 percent fat, 75 percent carbs). For another two weeks, they were offered an animal-based, extremely low carb (ketogenic) diet (around 75 percent fat, 10 percent carbs). They were allowed to eat as much as they wanted.

Participants consumed 550 to 700 fewer calories per day on the low carb diet. They lost weight on both diets, although only the low fat diet led to a significant loss of body fat. Challenging common thinking, the high carb diet did not lead people to overeat, and the high fat, animal-based diet did not result in weight gain.

Importantly, both diets were not typical American foods, but meals made with healthy, minimally processed foods and ingredients. A 2019 study by the same lab showed that a diet high in ultraprocessed food led to overeating and weight gain compared to a minimally processed diet. So, results could be different with a more typical, processed American diet.

If you are trying to lose weight, or just trying to support your health and well-being, follow a dietary pattern that suits your needs and preferences and avoid highly processed foods.


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