Dueling diets: Which one takes off the most weight?

Sept. 20, 2014—Atkins. Jenny Craig. Weight Watchers. Zone. When it comes to name-brand diet plans, the question on many people’s minds is, “Which one works best?”

A group of researchers decided to find out, and their results were published in September in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

The answer? Drum roll, please!

The diet plan that works best is the one that you’re most likely to stick with, and all of them were found to be better than no diet plan.

Branded diets go head-to-head

Researchers searched six medical databases for studies that put overweight or obese participants on different name-brand diets and tracked the people’s weight loss at 6 months and 12 months. The final analysis included 48 clinical trials, involving a total of 7,286 adults.

Low-carbohydrate diets included Atkins and Zone. Low-fat diets included Rosemary Conley and (Dr. Dean) Ornish. Diets that moderately restricted carbohydrates, fats and proteins included Jenny Craig, Volumetrics and Weight Watchers.

Researchers compared the weight-loss results of each diet plan to those of control diets (which they termed “no diet”). In the end, the Ornish, Rosemary Conley, Jenny Craig and Atkins diet plans compared most favorably to no diet after 12 months, with an average weight loss of about 14 pounds. However, that was only slightly better than results from Zone, Weight Watchers and Volumetrics—which averaged a little more than 13 pounds.

In other words, the diets were much the same in terms of the total amount of weight people might lose after one year. Researchers concluded that the differences were so slight that the best diet for any person is the one he or she will stick to.

You can read more about the study here.

The take-home message
You can lose a significant amount of weight on any of these diets—but only if you stick to it, the authors wrote. So the ideal diet for you is the one you can stay on.

The key to losing weight is to burn more calories than you eat and drink. It might be easier for you to do that by eating fewer carbs, eating fewer fats or eating less of both.

Of course, you don’t have to follow a name-brand diet plan. Here are three tips from the Weight-control Information Network, a service of the National Institutes of Health, that can help you design your own healthy diet:

  • Emphasize healthy foods. Fill at least half of every plate with fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat small portions. Read the nutrition facts label on foods so you know the size of one serving.
  • Be physically active every day. Schedule a walk or bicycle ride after every lunch or dinner, for example.

If you need more help on pulling together a good diet or you need more advice on losing weight in a healthful manner, visit your doctor.


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