Metabolic effects of weight loss on a very-low-carbohydrate diet compared with an isocaloric high-carbohydrate diet in abdominally obese subjects

J Am Coll Cardiol. 2008 Jan 1;51(1):59-67. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2007.08.050.


Objectives: This study was designed to compare the effects of an energy-reduced, isocaloric very-low-carbohydrate, high-fat (VLCHF) diet and a high-carbohydrate, low-fat (HCLF) diet on weight loss and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk outcomes.

Background: Despite the popularity of the VLCHF diet, no studies have compared the chronic effects of weight loss and metabolic change to a conventional HCLF diet under isocaloric conditions.

Methods: A total of 88 abdominally obese adults were randomly assigned to either an energy-restricted (approximately 6 to 7 MJ, 30% deficit), planned isocaloric VLCHF or HCLF diet for 24 weeks in an outpatient clinical trial. Body weight, blood pressure, fasting glucose, lipids, insulin, apolipoprotein B (apoB), and C-reactive protein (CRP) were measured at weeks 0 and 24.

Results: Weight loss was similar in both groups (VLCHF -11.9 +/- 6.3 kg, HCLF -10.1 +/- 5.7 kg; p = 0.17). Blood pressure, CRP, fasting glucose, and insulin reduced similarly with weight loss in both diets. The VLCHF diet produced greater decreases in triacylglycerols (VLCHF -0.64 +/- 0.62 mmol/l, HCLF -0.35 +/- 0.49 mmol/l; p = 0.01) and increases in high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) (VLCHF 0.25 +/- 0.28 mmol/l, HCLF 0.08 +/- 0.17 mmol/l; p = 0.002). Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) decreased in the HCLF diet but remained unchanged in the VLCHF diet (VLCHF 0.06 +/- 0.58 mmol/l, HCLF -0.46 +/- 0.71 mmol/l; p < 0.001). However, a high degree of individual variability for the LDL response in the VLCHF diet was observed, with 24% of individuals reporting an increase of at least 10%. The apoB levels remained unchanged in both diet groups.

Conclusions: Under isocaloric conditions, VLCHF and HCLF diets result in similar weight loss. Overall, although both diets had similar improvements for a number of metabolic risk markers, an HCLF diet had more favorable effects on the blood lipid profile. This suggests that the potential long-term effects of the VLCHF diet for CVD risk remain a concern and that blood lipid levels should be monitored. (Long-term health effects of high and low carbohydrate, weight loss diets in obese subjects with the metabolic syndrome;; ACTR No. 12606000203550).

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Fat / metabolism
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Cholesterol, LDL / blood
  • Diet Fads
  • Diet, Carbohydrate-Restricted*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / diet therapy*
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Risk Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Triglycerides / blood
  • Weight Loss*


  • Cholesterol, LDL
  • Triglycerides