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Stanford researchers review efficacy and safety of low-carbohydrate diets

ed between 1966 and 2003. They reviewed a total of 107 diet studies, which involved 3,268 people from around the world. The studies were small and heterogeneous, with carbohydrate and caloric intake, diet duration and participant characteristics varying greatly. The studies did have two things in common: none of the studies had participants with a mean age over 53 and none of the randomized and controlled studies lasted longer than 90 days. "Information on older adults and long-term results are scarce at best, and this should be kept in mind when looking at our findings," noted Bravata.

The researchers' meta-analysis found that people on diets of 60 or fewer grams of carbohydrates a day (a threshold used in some of the popular low-carbohydrate diets) did lose weight. But the weight loss was associated with restriction of caloric intake and longer diet duration, not with reduced carbohydrate intake. It also found that the greatest weight loss occurred among those participants on diets with the highest baseline weight and lowest caloric content.

"The greatest predictors of weight loss appear to be caloric intake and diet duration," she said. "The findings suggest that if you want to lose weight, you should eat fewer calories and do so over a long time period."

The researchers found no significant adverse effects on cholesterol, glucose, insulin and blood-pressure levels among participants on the diets. But, Bravata stressed, the adverse effects may not have shown up within the short period of the studies. She also said losing weight typically leads to an improvement in some of these levels, so this could have had an impact on the numbers.

While Bravata is pleased to be able to provide her patients with the most current evidence on these diets, she and the researchers concluded that there is insufficient evidence overall to make recommendations for or against using the diets. She said studies are now needed on the role of exercise in w
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Contact: Michelle Brandt
mbrandt@stanford.edu
650-723-0272
Stanford University Medical Center
8-Apr-2003


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