Compared to a low-fat diet, a very-low-carb diet yielded better fat loss and improved adiponectin levels, according to researchers at the University of Cincinnati. Read on to find out why this matters.
Adiponectin is a hormone-like protein secreted by fat cells. But the fatter you are, the less adiponectin you have in your bloodstream. This hormone has several effects:
- it’s anti-inflammatory
- high levels of one form of it (a high molecular weight oligomer) are linked to lower rates of diabetes
- low circulating levels are associatedwith athersclerosis (hardening of the arteries), high blood pressure, and impaired function of cells lining our arteries
- it sensitizes the liver and muscles to insulin, which helps keep blood sugars under control
- In summary, it’s a good thing to have around. Low levels are linked to illnesses. Overweight and obesity tend to lower your levels of adiponectin. If you’re overweight and have low levels of adiponectin, you should be healthier if you can raise your levels. How do you do that? Lose weight.
U. of Cincinnati investigators wanted to know if a very-low-carb diet would increase adiponectin levels better than a common low-fat weight loss diet. They randomized 81 obese women to follow either a low-fat diet (American Heart Association Step 1) or a very-low-carbohydrate diet based on the Atkins diet. Women followed the diets for either four or six months.
Both groups lost weight, but the very-low-carb group lost more: 9.1 kg loss for very-low-carb vs 4.97 for the low-fat group.
The very-low-carb group lost more body fat: 5.45 kg vs 2.62 kg. (Fat loss was determined by DEXA scan.)
Adiponectin increased in the VLC group but not the LF group.
We can’t tell from this article if adiponectin results would be the same in men. The authors didn’t mention.
In fairness, the authors cite another similar study that found equal degrees of weight loss and adiponectin increase in both low-fat and low-carb groups. It was a year-long intervention and average weight loss was 13.5% for both groups, a greater degree of weight loss than in the study at hand, in which the very-low-carb group lost 10% of body weight and the low-fat group lost 5.4%. So you can probably increase your leptin with a low-fat diet if you lose enough excess weight.
Would the Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet work just as well as the very-low carb diet used in this study? I suspect so, but don’t have the $500,000 it would take to do the research. Care to donate?
Summer, S., Brehm, B., Benoit, S., & D’Alessio, D. (2011). Adiponectin Changes in Relation to the Macronutrient Composition of a Weight-Loss Diet Obesity DOI: 10.1038/oby.2011.60