All Diets Work if you Count Your Calories and Eat Less
The effectiveness of four major kinds of diets was probed in a recent study, which found that all diets work - they key to success is simply sticking with your diet, and eating less.
The Harvard School of Public Health assessed 811 participants, who were on varying types of diets, and measured their weight loss at 6 months and 2 years. The results, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that the type of diet had little effect; it was the ability of the dieter to commit to the diet that really counted towards lost pounds.
Calorie counts were assigned individually to each dieter based on subtracting 750 calories from their daily caloric needs. Participants were asked to attend group sessions and use self-monitoring tools, such as diaries. They were also asked to exercise moderately for 90 minutes a week.
At the six-month mark, participants assigned to each diet had lost an average of 13 pounds (six kilograms). Among the 80 per cent who completed the program, the average weight loss was nine pounds (four kilograms) at two years. Waistlines were reduced by an average of two inches at the end of the two-year period.
The four diets were specifically designed by the research team to cover the basics of the main types of diets that exist: low fat, average protein; low fat, high protein; high fat, average protein; high fat, high protein.
The lead researcher, Dr. Frank Sacks, notes that there is nothing 'magic' about the fad diets out there, but if they are working for an individual then they should stick with it. The magic, he notes, is in motivation. Those who participated in support groups and counseling sessions lost more weight than those who didn't.
"There really wasn't magic revealed in the specific composition of the diet," said Dr. Howard Eisenson, executive director of the Duke Diet and Fitness Center. "I thought their conclusions made sense and jibed with what many of us in the field have long been thinking."
In addition to weight loss, subjects reduced their risk of heart disease and diabetes and improved their blood pressure.
The study emphasizes the importance of societal and peer support paired with restricted food intake to control for calories, over actual diet composition.
"The biggest influence is in the individual response, not the diet type," he says. "That's something we ought to delve into and understand better."
In an editorial appearing in the same issue of the journal, diet researcher Martijn Katan, from the Institute of Health Sciences at VU University, Amsterdam, suggests that Dr. Sacks's findings illustrate the need for a societal, rather than individual, approach to combatting growing obesity rates.