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Comparison of a low carbohydrate and low fat diet for weight maintenance in overweight or obese adults enrolled in a clinical weight management program

James D LeCheminant1*, Cheryl A Gibson2, Debra K Sullivan3, Sandra Hall4, Rik Washburn5, Mary C Vernon6, Chelsea Curry7, Elizabeth Stewart8, Eric C Westman9 and Joseph E Donnelly5

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Kinesiology and Health Education, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Edwardsville, USA

2 General and Geriatric Medicine, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, USA

3 Dietetics and Nutrition, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, USA

4 University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, USA

5 Center for Physical Activity and Weight Management, University of Kansas, Lawrence, USA

6 Private Bariatric and Family Practice, Lawrence, USA

7 Vince & Associates Clinical Research, Overland Park, USA

8 TransforMED, Leawood, KS, USA

9 Department of Medicine, Duke University, Durham, USA

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Nutrition Journal 2007, 6:36  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-6-36

Published: 1 November 2007



Recent evidence suggests that a low carbohydrate (LC) diet may be equally or more effective for short-term weight loss than a traditional low fat (LF) diet; however, less is known about how they compare for weight maintenance. The purpose of this study was to compare body weight (BW) for participants in a clinical weight management program, consuming a LC or LF weight maintenance diet for 6 months following weight loss.


Fifty-five (29 low carbohydrate diet; 26 low fat diet) overweight/obese middle-aged adults completed a 9 month weight management program that included instruction for behavior, physical activity (PA), and nutrition. For 3 months all participants consumed an identical liquid diet (2177 kJ/day) followed by 1 month of re-feeding with solid foods either low in carbohydrate or low in fat. For the remaining 5 months, participants were prescribed a meal plan low in dietary carbohydrate (~20%) or fat (~30%). BW and carbohydrate or fat grams were collected at each group meeting. Energy and macronutrient intake were assessed at baseline, 3, 6, and 9 months.


The LC group increased BW from 89.2 ± 14.4 kg at 3 months to 89.3 ± 16.1 kg at 9 months (P = 0.84). The LF group decreased BW from 86.3 ± 12.0 kg at 3 months to 86.0 ± 14.0 kg at 9 months (P = 0.96). BW was not different between groups during weight maintenance (P = 0.87). Fifty-five percent (16/29) and 50% (13/26) of participants for the LC and LF groups, respectively, continued to decrease their body weight during weight maintenance.


Following a 3 month liquid diet, the LC and LF diet groups were equally effective for BW maintenance over 6 months; however, there was significant variation in weight change within each group.