Two new weight loss studies

The first, “Atkins-like Diet Shows Promise for Heavy Heart Patients”:

bq. Recent studies show the Atkins approach is effective for short-term weight loss. A key question is whether the diet will achieve results over a longer period of time while avoiding a harmful buildup of artery-clogging fat that could boost patients’ risk for cardiovascular disease.

The second I actually heard first on the radio: “Diets work, *if* you follow them”:

bq. After two months 22 percent of the dieters had given up. After a year, 35 percent dropped out of Weight Watchers and the Zone diets and 50 percent had quit the Atkins and Ornish plans.

This suggests that the anecdotal evidence is true; Atkins works, but it’s harder to stay on a highly restrictive diet (Atkins == low-carb, Ornish == low-fat) than it is to eat a low-_calorie_ balanced diet. My personal experience matches; I know people who have “failed” at both Weight Watchers and Atkins, but I know more people successful on WW than on the others (and not because I’m a member; I’m not counting the people I know only through WW).

Weight Watchers works for me; I was able to follow their “eat fewer calories” system fairly easily (all I needed was a system to follow), I’m still keeping it off after six months; I have good weeks and bad weeks, but they average out. I don’t think I could manage an Atkins diet; I like bread and honey too much :-)

I think that using Atkins for controlled weight-loss, and then switching to something else, might work for some people, but for others it would be too many different eating rules in a short period of time. People already tend to “bounce” at the end of a weight-loss program, as they go back to their old eating habits.

Actually, that might be an interesting experiment. Does changing the rules at the end of a weight-loss regimen increase the success rate (because it’s easier to follow a new program than to stick with an existing one), or does it reduce the success rate (because introducing another new set of rules is too confusing)?

Anyway, “Chuq’s commentary”: for the second link was bang on, and worth repeating:

* All diets effectively work by dropping your calories below your usage rate. You can play with biophysical issues all you want, but the bottom line is more calories than you use, you gain weight, fewer, you lose weight.
* Any well-designed diet will help you lose weight if you use it.
* No diet will help you lose weight if you don’t.
* Choosing a diet that you can keep to is more important than choosing a diet for any other reason. Atkins might sound good, and might work for your friends, but if you can’t live without carbs, you’ll fail. Ditto in the other direciton with the Ornish diet.
* basically, diets don’t work because people can’t stay on them.

[ both links via “Teal Sunglasses”: ]

posted at 2:05 pm on Saturday, November 15, 2003 in Links | Comments (3)


  1. valencia simpson says:

    i would like to participate in a weight loss study.

  2. Jim says:

    There have been a number of studies that have shown that Atkins definitely causes weight loss – in the short term. But as you’ve said – it is a very difficult diet to sustain. Could you imagine being low/no carb your whole life??

    The other thing is that weight loss doesnt necessarily mean fat loss. A number of Atkins dieters showed drop in lean muscle mass as well as fat loss.

  3. Harald says:

    It’s difficult to lose weight without dropping _some_ muscle mass; that’s just the way it ends up working. Weight Watchers members lose lean muscle mass too.

    On the other hand, regular (non-strenuous, non-body-building) exercise only _adds_ a few pounds of muscle mass, according to the writings I’ve seen, so I can’t see the loss side being significant either.

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