The Effects of Low-Carbohydrate Diets on Psychosocial Outcomes in Obesity/Overweight: A Systematic Review of Randomized, Controlled Studies

Nutrients. 2016 Jun 29;8(7):402. doi: 10.3390/nu8070402.


Background: Little is known about the relative psychosocial effects of carbohydrate reduction in comparison to other weight-loss diets in subjects receiving treatment for obesity/overweight. We, therefore, set out to conduct a systematic review of the psychosocial outcomes of such patients, treated by means of either a low-carbohydrate diet or an isocaloric diet of other macronutrient composition.

Methods: Literature searches, study selection, method development, and quality appraisal were performed independently by two authors, and data were synthesized using a narrative approach, in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines.

Results: Eight randomized controlled studies met the inclusion criteria, and their subsequent analysis revealed that improvements in psychological and social outcomes do occur during short- and long-term weight loss programmes, but that low-carbohydrate diets have no greater effect on psychosocial outcomes when compared to diets of different macronutrient composition at either short- or long-term follow-up (one-year). However, the lack of studies with longer duration follow-up, and the absence of data in the adolescent population limit the generalizability of our findings.

Conclusion: The short- and long-term improvements in psychosocial outcomes seen in patients undergoing weight-loss treatment appear to be independent of the macronutrient composition of their diet.

Keywords: anxiety; depression; low-carbohydrate diets; mood; obesity; overweight; psychosocial outcomes; weight loss.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Databases, Factual
  • Diet, Carbohydrate-Restricted*
  • Diet, Reducing
  • Emotions
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Obesity / diet therapy*
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Overweight / diet therapy*
  • Overweight / psychology*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Treatment Outcome