A randomized trial comparing low-fat and low-carbohydrate diets matched for energy and protein

Obes Res. 2004 Nov;12 Suppl 2:130S-40S. doi: 10.1038/oby.2004.278.


Several recent studies have found greater weight loss at 6 months among participants on a very-low-carbohydrate (VLC) weight-loss diet compared with a low-fat (LF) weight-loss diet. Because most of these studies were not matched for calories, it is not clear whether these results are caused by decreased energy intake or increased energy expenditure. It is hypothesized that several energy-consuming metabolic pathways are up-regulated during a VLC diet, leading to increased energy expenditure. The focus of this study was to investigate whether, when protein and energy are held constant, there is a significant difference in fat and weight loss when fat and carbohydrate are dramatically varied in the diet. The preliminary results presented in this paper are for the first four of six postmenopausal overweight or obese participants who followed, in random order, both a VLC and an LF diet for 6 weeks. Other outcome measures were serum lipids, glucose, and insulin, as well as dietary compliance and side effects. Our results showed no significant weight loss, lipid, serum insulin, or glucose differences between the two diets. Lipids were dramatically reduced on both diets, with a trend for greater triglyceride reduction on the VLC diet. Glucose levels were also reduced on both diets, with a trend for insulin reduction on the VLC diet. Compliance was excellent with both diets, and side effects were mild, although participants reported more food cravings and bad breath on the VLC diet and more burping and flatulence on the LF diet.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Body Composition
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Diet, Fat-Restricted*
  • Diet, Reducing / adverse effects
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Proteins / administration & dosage*
  • Energy Intake*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Lipids / blood
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / diet therapy*
  • Patient Compliance
  • Weight Loss


  • Blood Glucose
  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Insulin
  • Lipids