Low-carb, high fat diet shows positive effects on older populations

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A new study by researchers with the University of Alabama at Birmingham's Nutrition Obesity Research Center observed improvements in body composition, fat distribution, and metabolic health in response to an eight-week, low-carbohydrate diet, according to results published in the journal Nutrition and Metabolism.

For the study, led by Amy Goss, PhD, RDN, an assistant professor with UAB's Department of Nutrition Sciences, the researchers said they wanted to determine if a very low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet would deplete fat depots and preserve lean mass without intentional caloric restriction in older adults with obesity, thereby improving outcomes related to cardiometabolic disease, such as insulin sensitivity and the lipid profile.

Egg consumption was an important part of the very low-carbohydrate diet prescription. The researchers provided eggs to the participants in this diet group and asked them to consume at least three per day, according to the study.

Older adults with obesity are at particularly high risk of developing cardiometabolic disease such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Rather than total fat mass, deposition of fat in certain areas, such as the abdominal cavity and skeletal muscle, may confer this greatest risk of disease development, the researchers said.

After an eight-week intervention, despite the recommendation to consume a weight-maintaining diet, the group consuming the very low-carbohydrate diet lost more weight and total fat mass than the control diet group.

"This study extends previous research to show that it can be a safe, therapeutic option for older adults in their 70s experiencing obesity," said Goss in a statement. "This is the first study to demonstrate depletion of metabolically harmful fat depots while preserving skeletal muscle during weight loss in response to a [very low-carbohydrate diet] in older adults."