Original Research

A 12-week, whole-food carbohydrate-restricted feasibility study in overweight children

Caryn Zinn, Ole Schmiedel, Julia McPhee, Nigel Harris, Micalla Williden, Mark Wheldon, Diane Stride, Grant Schofield
Journal of Metabolic Health | Journal of Insulin Resistance: Vol 3, No 1, | a42 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/jir.v3i1.42 | © 2018 Caryn Zinn | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 16 May 2018 | Published: 31 July 2018

About the author(s)

Caryn Zinn, Human Potential Centre, Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand
Ole Schmiedel, Auckland District Health Board Diabetes Centre, New Zealand
Julia McPhee, Human Potential Centre, Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand
Nigel Harris, Human Potential Centre, Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand
Micalla Williden, Human Potential Centre, Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand
Mark Wheldon, Department of Biostatistics, Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand
Diane Stride, Dietitian, New Zealand
Grant Schofield, Human Potential Centre, Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand


Background: Childhood obesity is a global health concern. Conventional nutrition guidelines have come under scrutiny in helping to achieve long-term healthy weight. An alternative carbohydrate-restricted, higher fat approach has shown to be effective in adults, but research is limited in youth.


Aim: To assess the feasibility of a 12-week whole-food, carbohydrate-restricted diet on weight loss and metabolic health.


Setting: Overweight children aged 8–13 years.


Methods: In this single-arm study, 25 overweight children were provided with whole-food, carbohydrate-restricted dietary guidelines. Primary outcomes – dietary acceptability, adherence and affordability – were assessed qualitatively weekly (telephone) and post-intervention (focus groups). Secondary outcomes – Body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, lipids and glycaemic control measures – were assessed at 0 and 12 weeks. Change scores were analysed using the t-statistic and interpreted using the statistical significance threshold, p < 0.05.


Results: Overall, dietary acceptability was mostly positive, and reports of affordability by parents were mixed. Attrition rates were high (48%); adherence was influenced, positively and negatively, by levels of support from friends and family. Completing children reduced BMI by 2.1 ± 1.5 kg.m2 (p < 0.05). Key blood parameter changes included a reduction in triglycerides (−0.17 ± 0.48 mmol/L; p = 0.242) and an increase in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (0.24 ± 0.19 mmol/L; p < 0.05).


Conclusion: Children achieved some weight loss and health outcome success using this dietary approach. For sustainable weight loss maintenance, full family and health professional support, particularly on a more intensive level at the start, may be required.


whole-food; low-carbohydrate; healthy-fat; lchf; feasibility; weight loss


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