Answer: Yes. People lose more weight during the first six months of a low-carb diet than they do on other kinds.
But after one year, the various diets even out.
There are countless variations of the low-carb diet. Some plans allow all the cheese, bacon, and Béarnaise sauce you can eat, while others limit food loaded with saturated fat in favour of skinless chicken breasts and low-fat cottage cheese. The common denominator: They all restrict carbs and help dieters shed pounds, at least in the short term.
There's little doubt that low-carb diets speed initial weight loss. In one recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, after 12 weeks on a low-carb plan, study participants lost an average of 10.8 pounds compared to 5.5 pounds for those on a low-fat diet.
It's little wonder these diets work: A low-carb diet is basically a low-calorie diet with a high protein content. Sure, removing a bun from a burger, eating a salad instead of fries, and opting for diet soda over regular makes for a lower-carb meal, but it's also a lower-calorie meal. What's more, low-carb diets are typically easier to stick with because the protein and fat in these plans help dieters feel full. In one study, during a 12-week phase of unrestricted total calorie intake of a high-protein, low-fat diet, researchers found that people spontaneously ate 450 fewer calories per day and reported feeling more satisfied than those on a high-carbohydrate diet.
But here's the catch: Studies show that at one year, the weight loss on a low-carb diet tends to equal that on a low-cal diet, possibly because people get tired of eating bread less sandwiches and shunning rice.
Are low-carb diets more effective for some people than for others?
Answer: Yes. What it takes to fit back into your skinny jeans is as much about your other genes as about what you put in your mouth.
Some people are genetically programmed to react to carbohydrates by secreting an oversize dose of insulin and they will probably benefit most from a low-carb diet.
How do you know if your DNA fits the bill?
Look in the mirror. If you store fat in your belly (an "apple" body shape), you're more likely to secrete excess insulin than if you store fat in or around your hips (a "pear" body shape). For a more scientific approach, pull out a tape measure and measure your waist at the belly button. Then measure your hips at their widest part (where your derrière is largest) and divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement. For women, a result of 0.8 or less indicates a normal or low insulin secretor; for men, it's 0.95 or less.