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Who Woulda Thought? Eat Fewer Calories, Lose Weight

Mar 12, 2009

The old joke has a man going to the doctor and saying, "It hurts when I do this. What should I do to make it go away?" 

"Stop doing it," says the doctor.

The diabetes variation on the joke has a person with type 2 going to an endocrinologist and saying, "No matter what diet I'm on-low-carb, low-fat, high-fat, high-protein-I can't lose weight. What should I do to make the weight go away?"

"Don't eat so much," says the endocrinologist.

So, the obvious once again makes itself known: A two-year study of four diets with varying combinations of protein, fats, and carbohydrates has concluded that the combinations don't matter as much as the calories consumed.

In other words, eat less.

The study, by the Harvard School of Public Health and the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University, tracked 811 men and women of different ages, incomes, and geographic locations. They were split into four groups, each of which ate one of the following diets:

  • Low-fat, average protein: 20 percent of calories from fat, 15 percent of calories from protein, 65 percent of calories from carbohydrate 
  • Low-fat, high-protein: 20 percent fat, 25 percent protein, 55 percent carbohydrate 
  • High-fat, average protein: 40 percent fat, 15 percent protein, 45 percent carbohydrate 
  • High-fat, high-protein: 40 percent fat, 25 percent protein, 35 percent carbohydrate

All the diets were "heart healthy," replacing saturated with unsaturated fats and emphasizing large daily helpings of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.  

Participants were told to shave 750 calories from their typical daily food intakes, but no participant had a daily intake below 1,200 calories. Participants were also asked to exercise moderately for a total of 90 minutes each week.

Participants kept a daily food and drink diary and posted to a Web-based program that let them know how closely they were hewing to their goals. They also received one-on-one counseling every eight weeks over the two-year period and met in group sessions at least twice monthly over the course of the study.

The results for each diet group were remarkably similar: All participants had lost an average of 13 pounds by the six-month mark (which they slowly regained-a common occurrence in weight-loss programs) and finished the two years with an average nine-pound weight loss. Additionally, the extent of their weight gain was a fraction-20 percent-of the weight gain experienced by participants in prior studies. 

The researchers concluded that as long as diets were heart healthy, the various combinations of nutrients were not as important to weight loss as simply eating fewer calories. 

They also found that the participants who regularly attended counseling sessions, whether one-on-one or in groups, lost significantly more weight (an average of 22 pounds) than participants who didn't (nine pounds). There is apparently a social aspect to weight loss, a sort of "misery loves company" factor, that bolsters people's resolution to stick to a reduced-calorie diet.   

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health funded the study, which appears in the February 26, 2009, issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.


Categories: Diabetes, Diabetes, Diets, Food, Losing weight, Low Calorie & Low Fat, Nutrition Research, Type 2 Issues, Weight Loss



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Comments

Posted by Anonymous on 14 March 2009

This study was total bull. They didn't include a ketogenic diet. They also didn't mention that even though the average weight loss wasn't much different and the average of each group's compliance put them on the same diet, that if they broke it down by true protein intake that did make a difference. The more protein the person ate, the more weight they lost. Also I've known plenty of people that had to increase their calorie intake in order to lose weight because they weren't eating enough of the right things.

Posted by Anonymous on 17 March 2009

Each diet in this study was a high-carb one. Had they included a low-carb diet, there would have been much more notable, significant weight loss. To be obese, diet for 2 years and lose a mere 9 pounds is not very motivating. Had these folks not been paid to participate, they would not have been likely to stick with it. The heart-healthy diet is far from healthy, and has contributed to more heart disease since its inception decades ago than any other diet - there has only been an increase statistically in heart disease since we were all lied to about eating low-fat.

Posted by glennette on 17 March 2009

And the Big Fat Lie continues...It's getting to the point that I can't believe anything that comes out of the medical/scientific feild.

If they had used a REAL low carb diet they would have found what I (any many others) have found...
a 73 lb loss and maintained over 3 years and still losing a little bit more every year. The other advantage is my A1c went from 10 to 5.7 (and that was a year ago)without ever taking medication.

Never felt a hunger pain EVER, never counted a calorie. The only rough time is kicking the carb addiction while being bombarded with carb advertising. But then it wasn't easy kicking cigarettes or alcohol either but I'd never go back to them. And yet, everywhere I go someone is pushing carbs (grains, starch & sugar) in every unholy form. This convinces me that what they are doing is keeping/ making people into the living sick who they can prescribe medication to forever. It's no wonder our medical care is over the top expensive! Just give the public the wrong information and then blame them when it doesn't work "you MUST have eaten too many calories" NO you ate the wrong kind of calories!...what a scam!

Posted by Anonymous on 18 March 2009

I did a low carb diet and it didnt do a thing for me. Read Atkins book, if this happens he said to decrease caloric intake. If you kept track of how many calories you were actually consuming on a low carb diet, you'd be amazed at how little you were actually eating. Calories in vs calories out.

Posted by Anonymous on 20 March 2009

I am an RD, CDE. If you are a diabetic, this is not going to work for you. If you are diabetic on glyburide, glipizide, insulin... anything that either is insulin or causes you to produce more insulin it DOES make a difference. If you eat more carbs, you will need more insulin and more glipizide/glyburide etc. Insulin is a hormone that helps you store fat. Yes, you can't just eat an unlimited supply of lower carb items. Americans have a huge problem with recreational eating. So the two things I always say are cut your carbs and then cut your meds which will help you lose weight, and secondly, stop eating for recreational reasons. Food was not designed to be a recreational activity. Lastly, protein foods and fat foods release CCK leading to more satiety which carbs don't. This helps people eat less if they eat more protein. When they have actually done studies where people were divided into groups and assigned a level including carbs/protein/fat, then the low carb did make a difference. YOu have to evaluate the study.

Posted by Anonymous on 8 February 2010

I've tried using Adipex to lose weight and it works for me. I purchased it online at medsheaven dot com


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