Study: Weight-loss fads less effective than exercise, eating less

The Los Angeles Times “Booster Shots” blog reports, “Nearly two-thirds of Americans who are obese try to lose weight, and about 40% of them actually succeed. How did they do it? The old-school way: By eating less, exercising more and switching to more healthful foods,” according to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Researchers examined 4,021 adults who had been obese between 2001 and 2006 before participating in the study. As the blog post notes, “2,523 – or 63% – said they had tried to lose weight in the previous 12 months. And among them, 1,026 – or 41% – were able to shed at least 5% of their body weight … Even better, 510 people – or 20% – succeeded in losing at least 10% of their body weight.” Among participants who lost at least 10%, exercise and healthier eating – not shortcuts – were typical practices.

According to the Boston Globe “Daily Dose” blog, the study’s lead author, Jacinda M. Nicklas, MD, of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, noted that most of the participants who were successful in losing significant weight “used a multipronged approach … exercising more, eating fewer calories and taking prescription diet pills.”

The Boston Globe “In Practice” blog reports that “successful dieters were most likely to reduce fat and calories, join commercial diet programs, and exercise. A smaller number achieved weight loss with prescription diet pills. Liquid diets, popular (‘fad’) diets, diet foods and products, and nonprescription diet pills did not produce weight loss.”

The blog post adds, “This study helps change that perception by confirming what many of us who have seen people lose weight know: it can be done, and it doesn’t require magic.”

The Time “Healthland” blog notes that “the most popular strategies were eating less, exercising more, eating less fat and switching to lower-calorie foods. People who used commercial weight-loss programs and prescription weight-loss pills also saw success, but only a small portion of the study participants used them.”

Also covering the story are MedPage Today, WebMD, and HealthDay.

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