Do you need to cut carbs to lose weight?

The short answer is NO. Although cutting carbohydrates (sugars and starches) out of your diet can be a useful tool for weight loss, it is by no means the only option those looking to lose weight have to choose from. In fact, the largest clinical trial conducted looking at weight loss over a period of 12 months showed no difference in weight loss between groups that chose to reduce carb intake versus a group who restricted fat intake (both groups lost an average of 12 lbs per participant).1 In an effort to take the research one step further, the researchers behind this study even tested the genetics of each individual in the study and categorized them into groups according to whether or not an individual had a genetic mutation thought to make them more or less likely to respond to one of the two weight loss diets. Again, they found that even these genetic differences had no effect on people’s ability to lose weight on either diet!1

Now, having said all this, we admit we often are recommending a low carb diet to many of our patients who are interested in losing weight. How come? One of the first food groups patients minimize in their diet when they’re told they can’t eat too many carbs are processed foods (e.g. boxed cereals, sugar sweetened beverages, cake and cookies, etc.). In other words, our recommendation to reduce carbs is actually an indirect means of guiding patients towards replacing nutrient devoid foods in their diet with more nutrient dense foods.

A theme that we often coach patients around in our practice is the importance of focusing on eating nutrient-dense foods, rather than just “cutting calories”. “Eat for nutrition, not weight loss”.

Using this as a guide for the numerous daily choices you make about food is a fairly simple and practical way to design your diet.

Regardless of which dietary pattern you choose to adopt in order to lose weight, just remember: Your ability to stick with any type of diet long-term is the strongest predictor of whether or not you’ll successfully lose weight.2 However you decide to feed yourself (and your family), make sure it’s sustainable for the long-term (i.e. at least the next 12 months and beyond).

Also, keep in mind that a lot of other important factors need to be considered when designing an effective and safe weight loss plan, which most “health gurus” and fad diets completely neglect to take into account. For a thorough and maximally effective weight loss plan, speak with one of our Naturopathic Doctors to learn more. Our goal is to be involved in your health care for the long term, and to help guide you towards a sustainable eating plan that meets your weight management goals.

Article by: Dr. Colt Schwenk ND

  1. Gardner CD, Trepanowski JF, Gobbo LCD, et al. Effect of Low-Fat vs Low-Carbohydrate Diet on 12-Month Weight Loss in Overweight Adults and the Association With Genotype Pattern or Insulin Secretion: The DIETFITS Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2018;319(7):667-679. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.0245
  2. Johnston BC, Kanters S, Bandayrel K, et al. Comparison of weight loss among named diet programs in overweight and obese adults: a meta-analysis. JAMA. 2014;312(9):923-933. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.10397