The Tulane University Low-fat vs Low-carb Study

The Tulane University Low-fat vs Low-carb Study

Earlier this month, a crazy amount of fuss was made over a new research study titled Effects of Low-Carbohydrate and Low-Fat Diets: A Randomized Trial[1], published by Dr. Lydia Bazzano at Tulane University.

Any time the mainstream press gets a hold of controversial studies like this one, and sounds off alarms with headlines such as “Low-Carb Diets Proven Better than Low-Fat Diets”, our BS alarms get elevated.

When looking at the data with a pair of unbiased eyes, we can see that this research study was horribly flawed from the onset, and its conclusions should be taken with a major grain of salt.

The study’s design

  • The study used obese people in Louisiana.
    • It was quite racially diverse, nearly equally spread across white and non-white subjects.
    • However, almost 90% of the subjects were females!
  • Subjects were split into two groups:
    • The low-carb group had to eat 40g of carbs per day
    • The low-fat group had to eat 30% of their caolories from fat, aiming for saturated fat under 7% and carbs around 55%
  • For one year, the researchers measured weight loss, LDL and HDL cholesterol, and waist circumference.
  • The subjects had meetings and assistance, which kept the retention rate high

What’s wrong with the Tulane Study?

There are two seriously massive issues with this study, and far more smaller problems:

  1. Calories were not controlled

    This is almost the most ridiculous part of this “research”. There was no standard for caloric intake!

    This means that so long as a subject attempted to stay within their boundaries, they could eat as much as they wanted of the other macronutrients. This has a severe effect on energy consumption and weight loss in general.

    Normally, this would discredit much of the study, but interestingly, the researchers got lucky and subjects ended up getting around 2,000 calories. Caloric intake wasn’t all that much different.

    But this leads us to the single most impermissible crime of the study:

  2. Protein wasn’t controlled!

    This is @chase_the_pumps, Myokem's sponsored athlete.  You don't get this fit by blatantly ignoring protein intake like this study did!

    This is @chase_the_pumps, Myokem’s sponsored athlete. You don’t get this fit by blatantly ignoring protein intake like this study did!

    This point is absolutely inexcusable: there were no controls on how much protein was to be gotten each day.

    We know from other research that when controlling low-carb and low-fat diets, higher protein intakes have more influence on weight loss than any other macronutrient parameter![2]

    What really ended up happening in this study was that the low-carb dieters tended to get more protein. That’s a great thing for them, but it discredits any talk of “low-carb vs. low-fat”, because this data is now significantly slanted.

    Right here, we know that this research cannot be accepted as fact. Are low-carb diets more successful because they’re low-carb, or are low-carb diets more successful because they more easily lead you to the real success factor (higher protein)?

  3. The research was self-reported

    Which means it was unreliable. Wait, people…. lie?! Never!

  4. The low-carb diet was impossible to follow

    Have you ever tried to stay under 40g carbs for long periods of time? It’s possible… but for very few people.

    Most users in the low-carb group ended up between 93g-127g per day.

  5. The low-fat diet wasn’t much of a diet

    The low-fat diet, on the other hand, wasn’t much different than the standard American diet. 30% isn’t exactly low-fat for most people.

    So basically, what we ended up getting was this:

    A low fat diet that wasn’t low fat, and a low carb diet that wasn’t low carb. But, the low-carb dieters got more protein!

  6. We don’t know what the participants really ate

    You won’t find the logs or data anywhere. Was it even recorded?

    Although you can eat 5000 calories worth of “healthy” food and still get fat (meaning quality doesn’t mean everything when it comes to weight loss), it’d have been nice to know if the participants ate any quality food at all.

  7. Bodyfat was measured with bioelectrical impedance

    This is essentially a useless form of measurement.

  8. The low-carb group lost 88% of their weight in the first three months

    Going into a severe restriction mode works – for a period of time. But it’s tough to make a lifestyle out of 40g of carbohydrate per day.

    After enough time, the low-carb group went back to baseline, and their weight loss slowed significantly.

    Meanwhile, guess what else was the lowest in the first three months? Calories as a whole!

    Are you starting to make a connection to the real success factors here? If not, see below.

The real lessons learned

  • Lower caloric intake in general leads to more weight loss
  • Higher protein intake leads to more healthy fat-loss and body re-composition.

For anyone who’s in the industry who really looked at this data, there’s nothing new going on here. Start with a high protein diet, calculate the amount of calories total, then make the rest of the macronutrients and micronutrients fit in a way that works for you.

In conclusion

The point is, any time you see headlines stating “XYZ is better than PDQ” or “XYZ is the BEST!”, turn on your BS alarm and look at the real data – or ask us.

This study got way too many headlines for how flawed it was. Just keep your protein high, your calories reasonable, and keep working out hard.

If you need to burn a couple more calories or stay motivated and focused during the “fog of dieting”, grab a free sample of Pyroxamine below.

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