Diets Disappoint In Long Run

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The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) is out with a study comparing four popular diet plans, and it contains good news and bad for the plans and for dieters.

All proved good at getting people to lose weight and lowering cardiac risk factors, but the sticking point was just that -- getting people to stick to the diets. That proved tough, with a 42 percent dropout rate overall.

The Early Show medical correspondent, Dr. Emily Senay, weighed the results.

She says researchers picked diets with very different approaches to losing weight. They looked at the Atkins diet, which is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate approach; The Ornish diet, created by Dr. Dean Ornish, a high-fiber, low-fat vegetarian diet that is, in many ways, the opposite of the Atkins diet; Weight Watchers, the traditional, low-calorie, portion-control method; and The Zone diet created by Dr. Barry Sears. The Zone uses a high-protein, low-glycemic load approach.

Fourty people on each diet were followed for a year.

All the diets worked comparatively well, Senay says. If the participants stuck to their diets, they were all able to lose weight and lower their risk of heart disease. All four were successful in achieving moderate weight loss, and all four groups improved their good/bad cholesterol ratios by about 10 percent.

Trouble is, all of this weight loss and resulting heart benefits can only work if you stick with the diets, and this study shows that's a big problem.

The two most extreme diets, the low-carb Atkins and the low-fat Ornish, had the biggest problems with adherence. Half the participants in each just couldn't stick with those plans for the required year. Weight Watchers and The Zone did a bit better: They each had a 35 percent dropout rate by the time the year was up. But the dropout rates for all four diets were too high.

So what can dieters do to stick with their plans longer?

One way, suggests Senay, might be to choose a diet that's best for each individual. Talk to your doctor, consider your food preferences, your lifestyle and your cardiovascular risk factors. Don't choose a diet just because it's the latest fad that everybody's using. Figure out what's right for you, and you'll have a much better chance of sticking with it. One diet does not fit all.

A good idea, Senay says, would be to find a "low-fad diet. Find the diet that works for you and stick to it. The age-old advice applies here: Eat fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains, exercise, and eat a little less. That should produce the results you want.
  • Brian Dakss

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