Stop Searching for the Perfect Diet

What diet is the most effective for weight loss?

The eternal battle between the superiority of low-fat vs. low-carb diets for weight loss has been waging for years…

… who is the REAL winner?

Let me introduce you to the wonderful and powerful research tool that is:

the meta-analysis.

Every diet seems to claim that it’s better than every other diet – that’s just a part of marketing. After all, why would you do Program A over Program B if they were shown to be equally as effective?

And that is exactly what the research shows.

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For the purposes of this post, reference the following for definitions:

LOW CARB
(Atkins, South Beach, Zone)
Carb: < 40% total kcal
Protein: ~30% total kcal
Fat: 30 – 55% total kcal

LOW FAT
(Ornish, Rosemary Conley)
Carb: ~60% total kcal
Protein: ~10 – 15% total kcal
Fat: < 20% total kcal

MODERATE
(Biggest Loser, Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, Volumetrics, Weight Watchers)
Carb: ~55 – 60% total kcal
Protein: ~15% total kcal
Fat: 21 – < 30% total kcal

In adults who are overweight (BMI 25-29.9) or obese (BMI > 30), all reduced calorie dietary treatments were superior to not dieting at all. In the short-term (6 months), low-carb diets seemed to display a slight advantage over low-fat diets (19.21 lbs lost vs. 17.58 lbs lost).

However, in the longer-term (12 months), low-fat showed the highest probability of weight loss success – again, extremely slight (15.99 lbs lost vs. 15.95 lbs lost).

The low-carb-ers also may have experienced more negative side effects than the low-fat-ers, such as constipation, headaches, bad breath, muscle cramping, diarrhea, weakness, and rash.

What did these diets have in common?

Both diets were equally successful.

Why is this?

Both utilized calorie reduction.

Most reduced-calorie diets result in clinically significant weight loss as long as the diet is maintained.

So, if you are trying to lose weight, should you go low-fat, low-carb, or keep it moderate?

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IT DOES NOT MATTER

Choose whichever method you will stick with long-term. As long as you are in a caloric deficit, meaning that you are eating fewer calories than is required to maintain your body weight, then you will be successful in losing weight.

CONSISTENCY is the KEY

“Because different diets are variably tolerated by individuals, the ideal die is the one that is best adhered to by individuals so that they can stay on the diet as long as possible.”

Crave eggs and can’t stomach the thought of giving up bacon? Go low-carb!

Does eating fruit make you feel energized and ready to slay a workout? Go low-fat!

But, if you love pasta and decide to give the Atkins diet a shot, chances are you are going to fail because you will not be able to stick to it if you spend every evening crying yourself to sleep over that box of spaghetti noodles that doesn’t have a home because you’re on a low-carb diet.

Behavioral support (especially in the first 3 months of the diet) and exercise enhanced weight loss.

Any diet that you stick with is better than no diet at all.

With that settled, where should weight loss research be putting its focus?

How do we keep the weight off?

REFERENCE
JAMA. 2014;312(9):923-933. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.10397
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