The Dietary Science Foundation
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Is a low-carbohydrate diet the most effective way to lose weight? Or is weight loss just about counting calories? Is saturated fat really unhealthy for our hearts? The dietary advice given to obese people has been a topic of intense debate for a long time. The Dietary Science Foundation is now investing 60,000 euros in a high-quality study that can help answer all of these questions.
Yesterday we reported about the first project that the Dietary Science Foundation has chosen to support this year: an evaluation of various dietary treatments for fatty liver. Today we are pleased to announce that we are also awarding 60,000 euros to Simon Dankel, researcher at the Center for Nutrition at the Department of Clinical Research, University of Bergen and Haukeland University Hospital, to study the most effective dietary treatment for obesity.
“Obesity is increasing worldwide – even in countries where famine has been a problem – and no country has managed to reverse the trend. During the last 40-50 years the focus has been on reducing the amount of fat in our diet, which apparently has not worked. It has led to the consumption of more refined carbohydrates instead. We will investigate whether carbohydrates have a greater negative effect our health than what was previously assumed,” says Simon Dankel.
Through the study, called CarbFunc, Simon Dankel will also study the long-term effects of eating large amounts of saturated fat. The warnings that saturated fat can cause cardiovascular disease rest on weak scientific grounds and have been called into question in recent years. In Simon Dankel’s study, some of the participants will eat three times the recommended amount of saturated fat.
“We saw in an earlier pilot study that while the bad LDL cholesterol rose a little initially, after three months it was back at the starting level. We now want to investigate the long-term effects of eating a lot of saturated fat,” Dankel says.
The study will include 150 obese participants who will be randomly assigned to one of three different dietary treatments. One group will eat a strict low-carbohydrate diet, free from wheat flour and sugar, with 30 percent of all calories in the form of saturated fat. A second group will follow the Nordic nutrition recommendations: a maximum of 10 percent of energy saturated fat, low-fat products and a high proportion of carbohydrates. The third group will also eat according to the Nordic nutrition recommendations, but the carbohydrates included will be minimally refined. Sugar and wheat flour will be completely excluded.
“Our main hypothesis is that the carbohydrate content affects weight loss. We want to see whether the amount of carbohydrates makes a difference, or if carbohydrate quality is more important,” says Simon Dankel.
To help participants follow the different diets, they will be given help in the form of an app that contains hundreds of recipe ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The same app was used in the pilot study and was a major source of support for the participants.
“It was practical for people to have help in their phones since the phone is always with them. Using the app, participants can, for example, generate a shopping list of all the ingredients they need for a week,” Dankel says.
The contribution from the Dietary Science Foundation will enable him to develop the app so the nutritional values for even more recipes can be included. The money will also be used for various forms of testing. In addition to monitoring the amount of abdominal fat, participants’ blood lipids, blood sugar, insulin sensitivity, liver fat, intestinal flora and many other parameters will be checked.
“The Dietary Science Foundation’s support is of great importance to us. We have high ambitions and the app we develop will be a valuable tool for future studies,” says Dankel.
The study began in January and will last for two years. The Dietary Science Foundation’s scientific advisory board judges it to be of very high quality as well as filling important knowledge gaps in the area of diet for obesity.
Once again – thank you to everyone who gives us the support that makes it possible to invest in this study! An extra big thank you to Romme Alpin ski resort for their 24,000 euro donation to the Dietary Research Foundation last spring which contributes to this project.
Tomorrow we will tell you about the third project we have chosen to support. Here’s a little spoiler: the goal is to start one of the largest studies ever done of how diet can be used to treat type 2 diabetes.