There are tons of diets out there, all vying for your attention. In fact, entire websites exist to provide a platform for reviewing these various protocols in an effort to answer the pressing question: What is the best weight loss diet?
To make the debate even more frustrating, new diets are constantly cropping up and being pushed through books, magazines and websites. In the hopes of providing an answer to this ever-present question, a team of researchers from the United States and Canada reviewed 59 different articles to try to find the single most effective diet. What did they come up with?
The Study and Findings
As mentioned, the meta-analysis included 59 different articles that studied the effectiveness of a range of “named diets” – branded eating-styles like the famed and controversial Atkins Diet. Of course, the major difference in most of these diets rested in their manipulation of macronutrient distribution (low-fat, low-carb, etc.).
After reviewing the body of existing research, the paper concluded that “the largest weight loss was associated with low-carbohydrate diets.” So, that’s it, right? Debate over. Low-carb wins!
The low-fat protocols still resulted in significant weight loss and, the article was careful to note that the differences were minor. Looking at specific brand diets, though, the researchers ultimately concluded that there was no significant difference in the efficacy of one diet brand over another.
Okay, so you probably just want an answer. What is the most effective diet? The one you can stick to. Or, in the clinical language of the analysis: “Patients may choose, among those associated with the largest weight loss, the diet that gives them the least challenges with adherence.”
Cautions, Caveats and Reality
Unfortunately, this doesn’t totally give you carte blanche to eat however you want as long as you do it consistently. First off, there’s the concern about micronutrients that can be lacking from some restrictive diets. For example, many people get so excited about the prospect of gorging on steak while on a high-protein diet that they totally neglect their need for greens. That does not go away.
There is also the fact that all of the diets covered in this review are “calorie-restricted,” meaning that the weight loss is primarily linked to a low caloric intake. That is a key ingredient to stimulate weight loss.
Remember, as well, that all the rules change if you have a medical condition such as diabetes that is directly linked to certain dietary habits. Low-carb (specifically low glycemic index) diets have been shown time and again to benefit type II diabetes. Athletes also have specific dietary needs to be addressed.
The take-home from this paper, then, is not that you can eat however you want. It’s that you can select the best diet for your situation – which may bring you to a lesser-of-two-evils situation – as long as it’s a healthy diet that you can follow for years.