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Sporadic low-carb diets may help lower weight, insulin resistance

December 08, 2011|By Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • Women who went on an intermittent low-carb diet had better health outcomes than women on a standard Mediterranean diet.
Women who went on an intermittent low-carb diet had better health outcomes… (Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles…)

An intermittent low-carb diet could be better than a standard low-calorie Mediterranean diet for weight loss and lowering insulin, a study finds.

Low-carb diets have been shown in a number of studies to be superior to regular low-calorie diets for various weight health outcomes, but they're notoriously difficult to stick to for a number of people. In this study, researchers followed 115 women who had a family history of breast cancer for four months as they were randomly assigned to one of three diet programs.

One was a very calorie-restricted (650 calories) low-carb diet for two days a week, one was a low-carb diet in which participants could eat unlimited amounts of protein and healthy fats for two days a week, and the last was a standard 1,500-calorie-per-day Mediterranean diet followed every day.

Both of the low-carb diets beat the Mediterranean diet for lowering weight and improving insulin resistance. Women in the low-carb groups lost an average of about 9 pounds, compared to about five pounds in the Mediterranean diet group. Insulin resistance dropped an average 22% in the calorie-restricted low-carb group, 14% in the all-you-can-eat low-carb group and 4% in the Mediterranean diet group.

"Weight loss and reduced insulin levels are required for breast cancer prevention, but [these levels] are difficult to achieve and maintain with conventional dietary approaches," said co-author Michelle Harvie of the Genesis Breast Cancer Prevention Appeal in England in a news release.

The study was presented this week at the Cancer Therapy & Research Center-American Association for Cancer Research San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

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