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Low-carb and Mediterranean diets beat low-fat plans for losing weight – report

Analysis published under the Lancet banner involved more than 68, 000 people and finds that sugar was used to bulk up ‘low-fat’ foods

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Low-fat diet is no more successful than higher-fat interventions in achieving and maintaining weight loss for periods longer than one year.

A major analysis published in the Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology journal, which looks at 53 long-term studies carried out since 1960 comparing diets – involving more than 68, 000 people – says the old advice to cut the fat was wrong.

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Trials that included dietary supplements or meal replacement drinks were excluded from the analysis. On average, trial participants across all intervention groups only managed to lose and keep off six pounds at one year or longer. Compared with low-fat diets, participants in low-carbohydrate weight loss interventions were about two and a half pounds lighter after follow-up of at least one year. Researchers also report that low-fat diets led to a greater weight loss only when compared to ‘usual diet’ in which participants did not change their eating habits.

 

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Deirdre Tobias, ScD, a researcher in the Division of Preventive Medicine at BWH. “In fact, we did not find evidence that is particularly supportive of any specific proportion of calories from fat for meaningful long-term weight loss. We need to look beyond the ratios of calories from fat, carbs, and protein to a discussion of healthy eating patterns, whole foods, and portion sizes. Finding new ways to improve diet adherence for the long-term and preventing weight gain in the first place are important strategies for maintaining a healthy weight.”

“Current evidence indicates that clinically meaningful weight loss can be achieved with a variety of dietary approaches, ” said Frank Hu, senior author of the paper and Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “The key is to improve long-term compliance and cardiometabolic health. Therefore, weight loss diets should be tailored to cultural and food preferences and health conditions of the individual and should also consider long-term health consequences of the diets.”

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