Individual results after a year were quite varied - one person lost 60 pounds, while another gained 20 - but the average weight loss in each group was nearly identical: 11 pounds in the low-fat group, compared to 13 pounds in the low-carb group.
So that's what Gardner and his colleagues tried.
The researchers also tested how people respond to a big dose of sugar.
Fat intake in the low-fat group averaged 57 grams during the study versus 87 grams beforehand; carb intake in the low-carb group averaged 132 grams versus 247 grams previously.
Turns out, neither approach is superior, regardless of the ample diet advice out there that recommends people cut their carb or fat intake in order to drop weight.
At the start of the year, "participants got part of their genome sequenced, allowing scientists to look for specific gene patterns associated with producing proteins that modify carbohydrate or fat metabolism" but "neither genotype pattern nor baseline insulin secretion was associated with the dietary effects on weight loss", per a report on the study by Citizen.
'On both sides, we heard from people who had lost the most weight that we had helped them change their relationship to food, and that now they were more thoughtful about how they ate, ' said Gardner. Nobody should have foods with refined sugar.
Researchers at Stanford University found that overweight adults who followed a low-fat or low-carbohydrate diet tailored to their genetic predisposition and biological makeup weren't any more successful at shedding pounds than the groups that followed the same two diets, but without the customization for these predispositions.
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Study authors did find one common denominator in the weight loss experienced by the dieters, based on their record-keeping of what they ate: Dieters who lost weight universally ate fewer calories on the diet than they had before, Time reported.
Nutritionist Dr Rosemary Stanton, a visiting fellow at the School of Medical Sciences at UNSW, notes that some previous studies damning carbohydrates did not take note of the foods that supplied it. Among low-fat dieters, that figure was 12 pounds.
Dr Gardener's study also found that a person's genetics or insulin metabolism is not necessarily a discriminating factor when it comes to a diet's effectiveness, despite the advent and popularity of DNA diets in the weight loss industry now.
"That was more powerful than differentiating between low-carb or low-fat: just getting them to be a lot more mindful about what they were eating", Gardner says. The rest had lost an average of 13 pounds. Similarly, a few women whose DNA did not "match" went through a divorce or other upheaval, ate for emotional comfort, gained weight, and made the mismatched group look awful - a reminder that so many emotional, economic, metabolic, social, and other forces affect someone's chance of losing weight that the effect of genes gets lost in the noise.
For many people, she said, this requires a willingness to "ascend a learning curve that includes creating new lifestyle habits, shopping, cooking and food prep techniques, trying new foods and creating strategies to help manage chaotic schedules, families and life's ups and downs". They said they thought carefully about each meal.
While that may be frustrating news for dieters, Gardner says there is a silver lining to the finding.
"I'm hoping that we can come up with signatures of sorts", says Gardner.
This kind of study is expensive, time-consuming and hard to do, Gardner said. (0.7 kg) - the difference within each diet group was more varied and more interesting, Gardner said.