Posted April 2, 2009

ATLANTA — Diets are always a hot topic, so the recent New England Journal of Medicine study on varying levels of carbohydrates, protein and fat for weight loss got a lot of media attention.

We’ve gone from Atkins (high fat, low carbohydrates) to Ornish (low fat, high carbohydrates), yet everyone wants to know the “best” diet for weight loss. Based on the more than 800 overweight adults who participated in the study for two years, here are the take-home lessons for those of you who want to shed a few pounds before summer swimsuit season.

Lesson 1

People can lose weight if calorie intake is reduced — there is nothing magical about the percent of carbohydrates, protein or fat that you eat. Less food (no matter if it comes from bread, roast beef or olive oil) will lead to weight loss.

Lesson 2

You may think you are following a low-fat or a high-protein diet, but after about six months you won’t be meeting the targets for fat, protein or carbohydrates. Dieters have a hard time sticking to a rigid prescription, but that is OK. As long as you continue to reduce calories you will lose weight.

Lesson 3

You don’t have to be skinny to improve your health. In the weight-loss study, participants lost about 13 pounds or 7 percent of their weight in six months. That might not sound like a lot of weight, but even a small loss can improve your blood cholesterol levels, increase the “good” cholesterol and decrease the “bad” cholesterol. Losing 10 pounds can also lower your blood pressure and improve blood sugar levels.

Lesson 4

Get connected. Successful losers attended group sessions; the more sessions they attended, the more weight they lost. Enlist the support of your family and friends to help you stay motivated to lose weight and to keep it off. Talk to your doctor about weight loss if he or she doesn’t bring it up, and check whether your health plan covers visits to a registered dietitian.

Lesson 5

Expect some weight regain. Dieters started gaining after the initial weight loss and ended up losing about nine pounds at the end of two years. Every dieter knows this challenge. The best strategy to fight the pounds is constant vigilance. Weigh yourself every day and monitor how your favorite jeans fit — when the pants get snug, it is time to redouble your efforts.

Lesson 6

There is no magic food that will stop hunger. All the dieters reported feeling satisfied with the plan they were assigned to and there were no differences in hunger or fullness among the groups.

Chris Rosenbloom, Ph.D., R.D., is a professor of nutrition in the College of Health and Human Sciences at Georgia State University. She’ll answer nutrition questions of general interest.

Send your questions to her c/o The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sixth Floor, 72 Marietta St. N.W., Atlanta, GA 30303. Or e-mail her at

Date: April 1, 2009

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