Dieting Based on Food Preferences: Low-fat vs. Low-carb

While public health organizations used to recommend low-fat/low-calories diets for people seeking to lose weight, in recent years, low-carbohydrate diets have been shown to be effective.

While public health organizations used to recommend low-fat/low-calories diets for people seeking to lose weight, in recent years, low-carbohydrate diets have been shown to be effective.

Now that various diets are available to people looking to lose weight, researchers are interested in determining how food preferences can influence weight loss, since a dieter's food preferences might influence the type of diet he or she chooses.

Might a meat lover lose more weight on a low-carb diet than a low-fat diet? These researchers explored the hypothesis that participants whose diet plans matched their food preferences would lose more weight than those whose diets and food preferences were mismatched — the results were published in Appetite.

In the initial study, participants were randomized into the ‘no choice’ arm or the ‘choice’ arm. In the ‘choice’ arm, participants could select either a low-carb diet (n = 61) or a low-fat diet (n = 44). In the ‘no choice’ arm, participants were assigned to a low-fat diet (n = 49) or a low-carbohydrate diet (n = 53).

All participants received lifestyle counseling for 48 weeks, and participants’ food preferences were measured with the Geiselman Food Preference Questionnaire at the start and at 12-week intervals thereafter.

Researchers found that in the low-carbohydrate diet group, participants' preferences for diet-congruent foods during the first 12 weeks of the intervention were associated with later weight loss. Furthermore, participants who lost weight during the first 12 weeks of the intervention developed preferences for diet-congruent foods.

In the low-fat group, the researcher found no links between food preferences and weight loss.

According to the study, dieters who select plans that match their food preferences may or may not lose weight. Overall, patients lost about the same amount of weight regardless of their diet plans.

Previous studies have suggested that dieters who self-select a diet plan based on their food preferences do not lose more weight than those who are given a diet, and may actually lose less weight. This study differed from past research, because it looked specifically at each participant’s food preferences, and each participant followed 2 different diet plans.

The researchers acknowledged that selecting diet plans based on food preferences is reasonable, but clinicians should manage patients' expectations and warned that choosing preference-congruent diet plans may not lead to greater weight loss.