Waist of time? Benefits of most diets disappear after a year, study finds

LONDON — No matter what fad diet you may be trying out at the moment, within a year’s time its effects will have largely disappeared. That’s the somewhat deflating conclusion of a new international study that included scientists from around the globe.

Researchers from China, America, Switzerland, and Canada collaborated on this project. They found that most diets usually result in roughly the same amount amount of weight loss and cardiovascular improvements over a period of about six months. A year later, though, the majority of those benefits will be long gone.

Mediterranean diets were specifically mentioned as an outlier; these regimens seem to retain reductions in bad cholesterol among dieters a year afterwards.

Another noteworthy finding was that the differences in benefits between most popular diet programs were small or trivial. With these results in mind, the study’s authors say that dieters should simply choose the weight loss plan they enjoy the most, and not worry about advertised benefits over different meal plans.

There are endless diets out there claiming to be the permanent solution to obesity and cardiovascular problems. Up until now, however, there hadn’t been a comprehensive analysis comparing the effectiveness of all of these diets.

So, the study’s authors decided to investigate just how helpful popular weight loss diets really are among overweight and obese adults. In all, data on 21,942 people collected during 121 prior diet trials were included in the research. Participants reported changes in their weight and cardiovascular health after following a specific weight loss plan of some kind.

Studied diets were grouped together according to either their popular name (Atkins, Mediterranean, etc.) or their macronutrient patterns (low carb, low fat, etc.).

In comparison to a usual or normal diet, low carb and low fat regimens universally resulted in small reductions in weight (8-11 pounds) and some drops in blood pressure after six months. Moderate macronutrient diets, meanwhile, almost always resulted in fewer weight loss or cardiovascular benefits.

Regarding popular named diets, Atkins, DASH, and Zone seemed to have the largest weight loss benefits (an average reduction of 7-12 pounds) and cardiovascular improvements after six months. Somewhat surprisingly, no named diet helped increase levels of “good” HDL cholesterol or C reactive protein.

Among all studied diet plans (except Mediterranean), weight loss and cardiovascular benefits largely disappeared after 12 months.

All of the current diet plans available today “provide a plethora of choice but no clear winner,” according to researchers at Monash University in a release.

Perhaps people should spend less time choosing diets and more effort on maintaining weight loss once it has been achieved, the researchers suggest.

“If we are to change the weight trajectory of whole populations, we may learn more from understanding how commercial diet companies engage and retain their customers, and translate that knowledge into more effective health promotion campaigns,” the release concludes.

The study is published in The BMJ.

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About the Author

John Anderer

Born blue in the face, John has been writing professionally for over a decade and covering the latest scientific research for StudyFinds since 2019. His work has been featured by Business Insider, Eat This Not That!, MSN, Ladders, and Yahoo!

Studies and abstracts can be confusing and awkwardly worded. He prides himself on making such content easy to read, understand, and apply to one’s everyday life.

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