Participants in both groups lost the same amount of weight -- 8.8 pounds.
The real triumph, however, was seen in the 0.6 percent greater reduction in LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels in the group eating more plant-based proteins. Improvements in total cholesterol, ratios of proteins that adhere to fats, and blood pressure were also seen.
Several questions remain, including whether reductions in risk factors will translate into less disease, whether cholesterol-lowering will also help with additional risk factors like insulin resistance, and, the big question, how well people not participating in a strictly controlled trial will actually be able to follow the diet.
"It seems like a limited study in the number of people, the time frame... and what's advertised as low carb is still the minimum recommendation of 130 grams per day," said Marianne Grant, a registered dietitian and health educator with the Texas A&M Health Science Center Coastal Bend Health Education Center in Corpus Christi. "This diet is not as low carb as some other diets are."
Also, she added, "both diets were 60 percent reduced in calories, so the weight loss may be coming from the deficient calories and probably the cholesterol benefits are coming from high fiber. It's not a bad diet, but it requires more research. It's much better than other low-carb diet because it encourages eating nuts, fruits and vegetables and portion control. I think that's the most important thing with weight loss."
Another expert had a similar reaction to the findings.
"The study is very short-term and, in my opinion, pretty much anyone can lose weight in four weeks with this approach or other approaches," said Renee Simon, nutritional consultant to Northern Westchester Hospital in Mt. Kisco, N.Y. "However, I don't really see any downside to
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