If you’re overweight, losing weight can significantly reduce inflammation in your body, regardless if you lose weight with a low-carbohydrate or low-fat diet, a new study says.
Being overweight is known to increase inflammation in the body, which researchers say can lead to increased risks of heart attack or stroke. “Our findings indicate that you can reduce systemic inflammation, and possibly lower your risk of heart disease, no matter which diet — either low-carb or low-fat,” says researcher Kerry Stewart, professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore and director of clinical and research exercise physiology. “The important factor is how much weight you lose — especially belly fat.” The researchers recruited 60 people, ages 30 to 65, who were either overweight or obese with excessive belly fat. For six months, subjects followed either a low-fat or a low-carb diet while also participating in exercise training three times a week. Subjects’ blood levels were also measured for three common markers of inflammation — C-reactive protein, interleukin 6 and tumor necrosis factor-alpha — at the beginning and end of the study. Researchers also tested for body weight, body mass index, and total body and belly fat. Subjects who ate a low-carb diet lost more weight than those on the low-fat diet — 12.7 kilos compared to 8 kilos. The low-carb diet group also had a greater drop in body mass index and belly fat, while both groups increased their aerobic fitness by 20 percent. “In both groups, there was a significant drop in the levels of all three measures of inflammation,” says Stewart. The team presented its research on Monday at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in Los Angeles. Prior research has linked low-carb diets with an increase in inflammation. In another study published this year, a diet rich in slowly digested carbohydrates, such as whole grains and legumes, has been shown to significantly reduce inflammation in obese subjects. That study appeared in the February issue of The Journal of Nutrition.