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Popular Diets Similar in Terms of Weight Loss, Meta-Analysis Finds — Physician’s First Watch

Medical News |
September 3, 2014

Popular Diets Similar in Terms of Weight Loss, Meta-Analysis Finds

By Amy Orciari Herman

Edited by David G. Fairchild, MD, MPH, and Lorenzo Di Francesco, MD, FACP, FHM

Popular branded low-carbohydrate and low-fat diets lead to significant weight loss, with little difference between the two approaches, according to a network meta-analysis in JAMA.

Researchers examined data from 48 randomized trials that studied various popular diets among roughly 7300 overweight or obese adults. They found that all diets were superior to no intervention. In particular, low-carb programs (e.g., Atkins) and low-fat approaches (e.g., Ornish) yielded the greatest weight loss at 6 months (roughly 8 kg versus no diet), with minimal differences among the individual diets. Weight loss at 6 months was somewhat lower with moderate macronutrient diets (e.g., Weight Watchers), at just under 7 kg.

The authors say their analysis "supports the practice of recommending any diet that a patient will adhere to in order to lose weight."

Reader Comments (5)

Ellen Govers, Registered Dietitian Other Healthcare Professional, Internal Medicine, primary care Amstelveen, Netherlands

This meta analysis shows again what we knew: wieght loss is possible with any diet. What we don't know exactly is, which diet fits which patient. In other words: why do some patients lose weight on a diet where others don't with the same therapy? RCT's are neccessary to gather evidence, but they do not copy real life situations of patients. Many more studies are needed to be able to treat all patients with a fit therapy.

LC Kee Physician, Family Medicine/General Practice

Challenged by a patient I embarked on a two week very low carbo diet. Another doc checked my initial weight and BP. Amazingly I managed to lose 5 kg!
Unfortunately I also got gastritis. Solution was to eat my low carbos three hourly.

Bruce Ammons, Ph.D. Other Healthcare Professional, Other, Private practice

This is yet another study that obscures facts rather than helping, due to a lack of analytic thinking and good observation -- a major problem esp. when one goes to meta-analytic approaches. I've seen tons of my patients go on a Paleo diet (low carb via veggies, high good fats and protein, avoiding inflammatory foods) and, like me, lose 35-50 lbs in 3-5 months, have asthma and other autoimmune diseases disappear, cut meds, etc. , all without losing MUSCLE. It matters a lot if muscle and not fat is lost on these diets. You cannot say that about any of the other diets. These reports weight drops make me suspect that people didn't stick to their diets.

MARGARET HARDY Physician, Family Medicine/General Practice, australia

Research by Prof Steven Simpson at Sydney University (on mice so far) showed poorer cardiometabolic outcomes and shortened life in those on high protein low carb diets, however. The long term outcome is important when advising patients.

TRACY KOLENCHUK Healthicine.org

Someday... we might learn to diet for health instead of 'weight loss' - which assumes that lost weight is health improvement. Then, some decades later, someone can do a meta-analysis to determine what diet improve healthiness. But that day is very far away, people diet for weight loss, and many of those diets decrease health, and our bodies compensate, attempting to regain the lost health - and we wonder why diets don't work most of the time.

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