Tailoring dietary approaches for weight loss

Int J Obes Suppl. 2012 Jul;2(Suppl 1):S11-S15. doi: 10.1038/ijosup.2012.4.


Although the 'Low-Fat' diet was the predominant public health recommendation for weight loss and weight control for the past several decades, the obesity epidemic continued to grow during this time period. An alternative 'low-carbohydrate' (Low-Carb) approach, although originally dismissed and even vilified, was comparatively tested in a series of studies over the past decade, and has been found in general to be as effective, if not more, as the Low-Fat approach for weight loss and for several related metabolic health measures. From a glass half full perspective, this suggests that there is more than one choice for a dietary approach to lose weight, and that Low-Fat and Low-Carb diets may be equally effective. From a glass half empty perspective, the average amount of weight lost on either of these two dietary approaches under the conditions studied, particularly when followed beyond 1 year, has been modest at best and negligible at worst, suggesting that the two approaches may be equally ineffective. One could resign themselves at this point to focusing on calories and energy intake restriction, regardless of macronutrient distributions. However, before throwing out the half-glass of water, it is worthwhile to consider that focusing on average results may mask important subgroup successes and failures. In all weight-loss studies, without exception, the range of individual differences in weight change within any particular diet groups is orders of magnitude greater than the average group differences between diet groups. Several studies have now reported that adults with greater insulin resistance are more successful with weight loss on a lower-carbohydrate diet compared with a lower-fat diet, whereas adults with greater insulin sensitivity are equally or more successful with weight loss on a lower-fat diet compared with a lower-carbohydrate diet. Other preliminary findings suggest that there may be some promise with matching individuals with certain genotypes to one type of diet over another for increasing weight-loss success. Future research to address the macronutrient intake component of the obesity epidemic should build on these recent insights and be directed toward effectively classifying individuals who can be differentially matched to alternate types of weight-loss diets that maximize weight-loss and weight-control success.

Keywords: gene–diet interaction; high protein; insulin resistance; low-carbohydrate; low-fat; weight-loss diets.