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Preferred Diet Plans Do Not Matter Trying to Lose Weight

Diet makers push hard to get people to choose their method of weight loss but according to a new review, when it comes to losing weight, diet programs and brand names do not make much difference.

According to Joy Bauer, nutritionist for TODAY, the type of diet a person chooses, Atkins, South Beach, Paleo, low-fat, low-carbohydrate, low-protein, and so on, has no real impact on weight loss. Instead, the goal is to balance calories, regardless of the diet plan a person chooses.


Lead author of a new study, but also researcher with the Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute in Toronto and McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Bradley C. Johnston, states that while participants lost slightly more weight following low-fat and low-carbohydrate diets, all of the programs studied were equally effective.

He goes on to say that the amount of weight loss between the various branded diet programs was so insignificant, they played little importance for someone interested in dropping unwanted pounds. To make any diet program work, Bauer offers four helpful tips:

1. Maintain a positive attitude
2. Keep track of progress
3. Choose a diet plan that matches lifestyle
4. Forgive slipups

Bauer reminds people not to allow one small slipup to turn into an all-day eating binge. Instead, people need to forgive themselves, regain focus, and get right back on the diet plan chosen.

Analysis for the study involved 49 randomized controlled trails. For these, 11 popular branded diets were tested over a three-month period. All of the participants in the study were either overweight or obese, had calorie and nutrient daily targets, and some had set exercise goals.

Of the diet programs tested were those in the low-carbohydrate category such as South Beach, the Zone, and Atkins, which allow no more than 40% of daily calories to come from carbohydrates and another 30% from protein. The study also included low-fat diets like Rosemary Conley and Ornish, which allow less than 20% of calories to come from fats and 60% from carbohydrates.
Also included in the study were moderate macronutrient diets to include Nutrisystem, Weight Watchers, Biggest Loser, Volumetrics, and Jenny Craig. These too allow 60% of calories to come from carbohydrates but for these diet programs, people are allowed to consume more fats but fewer proteins.

People on one diet or another lost weight compared to participants who did not diet at all. Again, the diets deemed most successful were those in the low-fats and low-carbohydrates categories. Over one year, people on both the low-fat diets and low-carbohydrates diet programs lost an average of 16 pounds compared to those following moderate macronutrient diets, who lose 12.5 pounds.

Researchers note that the different brands of diets for each category do not make much of a difference. For instance, in the low-carbohydrate diet category, Atkins was compared to the Zone diet, which at the six-month mark resulted in about a four-pound loss.

Lindsay Malone, registered dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic and who was not involved with the study states that in general when people follow a particular diet plan, have a good support system in place, and are provided with guidelines that draw them away from normal everyday behavior, weight loss is imminent.

Malone also expresses that although weight loss was achieved with the various diet programs studied, people are still required to make significant lifestyle changes to include reducing calories, exercising, and eliminating junk food. Rather than recommend a specific diet to patients, Malone and her colleagues focus on certain characteristics of diets and lifestyle modification.

She also says that although the moderate macronutrient diets resulted in the least amount of weight loss, for some people, these may be the better choice. The reason is that moderate macronutrient diet programs are designed to offer variety, making them easier to follow but also be adopted by the entire family, including those who do not need to lose weight.

Malone does say that branded diet plans are typically more effective than following general dietary guidelines since they are designed as a comprehensive program to include exercise and behavioral support. Then for people with extremely busy lives, certain diets like Jenny Craig work well because they offer not only meal ideas and recipes but also prepared meals.

Weight loss can be achieved on multiple diet programs. The goal is for people to choose or be advised about the one they will stick to best, thereby achieving weight loss.

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