This Diet Works: Eat More, Lose Weight

It violates the basic laws of science. How is it you can eat more--a whopping 300 additional calories a day--than people who are on a standard, low-fat diet and lose more weight than they do? The answer: Go on a low-carbohydrate diet and gorge on high-fat foods.

A small but carefully controlled research study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health concluded that people can eat an extra 300 calories a day when they are on a very low-carbohydrate regimen and lose just as much weight in 12 weeks as people on a standard low-fat diet, reports The Associated Press.

Over the course of the Harvard study, the low-carb dieters consumed an extra 25,000 calories, which mathematically should have added up to an extra 7 pounds. But it didn't! And that strikes at the most basic scientific assumptions of a calorie, which has at least one critic, Barbara Rolls of Pennsylvania State University, muttering, "It violates the laws of thermodynamics." Still, it's hard to argue with a smaller belt size.

The study: Twenty-one overweight volunteers were divided into three groups. One group was placed on low-fat diet, the second group embarked on a low-carb diet, and the third group ate the same low-carb diet but got an extra 300 calories a day. All the food was prepared at an upscale Italian restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts so researchers knew exactly what the participants ate.

The results: Everyone lost weight.

* Low-fat dieters lost 17 pounds.
* Low-carb, low calorie dieters lost 23 pounds.
* Low-carb, more calorie dieters lost 20 pounds.

The whole idea of a low-carbohydrate diet in which bread, rice, and pasta are eschewed for heaping servings of steak, eggs, and bacon is controversial to say the least. Critics insist the diet creates a risk for high cholesterol and heart disease. Proponents show off their skinny waistlines and smile smugly. This new study confirms that the low-carb dieters really can eat more high-fat foods and lose the same amount or more. Study author Penelope Greene told AP, "There does indeed seem to be something about a low-carb diet that says you can eat more calories and lose a similar amount of weight," Greene said.

And that has well-educated nutritionists scratching their heads. "A lot of our assumptions about a calorie is a calorie are being challenged," admitted Marlene Schwartz of Yale. "As scientists, we need to be open-minded."