Low-Carb Diets May Work Better for Men Than Women

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Guys who want to lose their beer belly and build a better chest should opt for very low-carb diets, research shows.

The finding comes from the current issue of the journal Nutrition & Metabolism.

Jeff Volek, PhD, RD, and colleagues from the University of Connecticut randomly assigned 28 overweight or obese, mostly sedentary men and women to a low-carb diet or low-fat diet. Each diet was set up so that the participants would decrease their total calorie intake daily by 500 calories. The participants switched to the other diet after completing the first diet period.

The low-carb diet was aggressive. The goal was to decrease the amount of carbohydrates eaten to fewer than 10 percent of total calories. For example, if someone were on a 1,500 calorie-a-day diet, they would eat fewer than 38 grams of carbs a day.The study was funded in part by the Robert C. Atkins Foundation.

Men followed each diet for about 50 days; women did so for about a month to control the effects of menstruation on measurement variables.

Men on the low-carb diet ate an average of 1,855 calories per day, while men on the low-fat diet ate an average of 1,562 calories per day.

They found that men who followed a low-carb diet had more reductions in weight, total body fat, and fat in the chest and stomach areas, despite eating more calories.

The majority of women also had better success with the low-carb diet, especially in terms of fat loss in the chest and stomach, although the reductions were less pronounced.

Volek’s team showed for the first time that a low-carb diet works much better than a low-fat plan when it comes to losing fat from the stomach and chest. In fact, men on a low-carb diet lost three times more fat in the trunk area than those on the low-fat plan.

Researchers say their data seem to favor eating a low-carbohydrate diet followed by a low-fat diet. They point out that this might present a viable weight loss option for those concerned about staying on a low-carb diet for a long time.

By Kelli Miller Stacy, reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD

SOURCES: Volek, J. Nutrition & Metabolism, Nov. 9, 2004; vol 1. News release, BioMed Central.