A new study has revealed that commercial diets can help weight loss in the short term, but keeping the weight off after the first year and the diet's impact on heart health are unclear.
Mark J. Eisenberg, M.D., M.P.H., the study's senior author and Professor of Medicine at Jewish General Hospital/McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, said that despite their popularity and important contributions to the multi-million dollar weight loss industry, they still do not know if these diets are effective to help people lose weight and decrease their risk factors for heart disease. With such a small number of trials looking at each diet and their somewhat conflicting results, there is only modest evidence that using these diets is beneficial in the long-term.
After analyzing clinical trials on four popular diet plans-Atkins, South Beach, Weight Watchers, and Zone-that promote weight loss and improved cardiovascular health, researchers found that in trials comparing Weight Watchers to usual care, Weight Watchers dieters lost an average 7.7 to 13.2 pounds after one year compared to 1.8 to 11.9 pounds with usual care.
However at 2 years, the weight lost was partially regained. Usual care refers to traditional methods to promote weight loss such as low-fat diets, behavioral weight loss intervention, nutritional counseling, or self-help materials.
Results from trials on the Atkins diet were inconsistent. In the only trial comparing the South Beach diet to usual care, no difference in weight loss occurred in 12 months, however the participants in this study were both severely obese and had undergone gastric bypass surgery.
Trials involving head-to-head comparisons between Atkins, Weight Watchers, Zone and usual care suggest that all four result in a modest weight loss at one year, as did those in the control group who received the usual care. Those on the Atkins diet lost an average 4.6 to 10.3 pounds; Weight Watchers participants lost an average 6.6 pounds; Zone dieters lost an average 3.5 to 7 pounds; and control lost about 4.85 pounds.
In studies involving head-to-head comparisons, there were no marked differences between Atkins, Weight Watchers, and Zone diets at improving cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar levels, or other cardiovascular risk factors.
The study was published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, an American Heart Association journal.