A new study analyzed the data from nearly 50 trials including about 7,300 individuals. Significant weight loss was reported with every low-carb or low-fat diet, with very small differences between them. This indicates that obese patients should be recommended any healthy diet they are most likely to keep up.

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Weight loss programs are a multi-billion industry, but recent studies have cast a bigger and bigger shadow on them. Do they really work, are they as efficient as they claim, or are they simply an elaborate scam? There is no clear yes or no answer, but this recent study indicates that healthy diets are all the same (in terms of weight loss) – it doesn’t matter if you follow the fancy diet or a basic low carb diet, the end result will still be the same. For overweight people looking for a magic solution – it should be clear that no such thing exists.

Bradley C. Johnston, Ph.D., of the Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute, Toronto, and McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis to assess the relative effectiveness of different popular diets in improving weight loss. The researchers conducted a search of the medical literature to identify studies in which overweight or obese adults (body mass index 25 or greater); they analyzed 59 articles that reported 48 randomized clinical trials (7,286 individuals; median age, 46 years; median weight, 207.5 lbs.) which were followed over periods longer than 3 months.

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Weight loss differences between differents diet were minimal, but existed. For example, one of the most famous diets, the Atkins diet resulted in a 3.8 lbs. greater weight loss than the Zone diet at 6-month follow-up.

“Although statistical differences existed among several of the diets, the differences were small and unlikely to be important to those seeking weight loss,” the authors write.

“Our findings should be reassuring to clinicians and the public that there is no need for a one-size-fits­all approach to dieting because many different diets appear to offer considerable weight loss benefits. This is important because many patients have difficulties adhering to strict diets that may be particularly associated with cravings or be culturally challenging (such as low-carbohydrate diets). Our findings suggest that patients may choose, among those associated with the largest weight loss, the diet that gives them the least challenges with adherence. Although our study did not examine switching between diets, such a strategy may offer patients greater choices as they attempt to adhere to diet and lifestyle changes.”

In other words, as the study puts it – any diet is still about energy. It matters less what form the energy takes.

Journal Reference:

Van Horn, Linda. A Diet by Any Other Name Is Still About Energy. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.10837.