Data Suggests Any Diet Will Work—If You Follow It

Data Suggests Any Diet Will Work—If You Follow It
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Is a high-protein or a high-carbohydrate diet better for weight loss? A long-term study presented to American Diabetes Association suggests possibly “both”
Is a high-protein or a high-carbohydrate diet better for weight loss? A long-term study presented at a American Diabetes Association conference suggests “both.” Or rather, any diet works, so long as you stick with it.

High protein vs. high carbohydrate

To compare weight loss diets, researchers randomly selected 419 overweight, 35- to 75-year-old adults with diabetes to follow a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet or a low-fat, high-protein diet. Study participants attended twice weekly, dietitian-led classes for the first six months and monthly sessions for another six months, to help them stick with their assigned diet. After two years, 70% of the participants had completed the study.

Tenacity is the key

Both the high protein and high carbohydrate diet groups had

  • lost an average of about five pounds,
  • reduced their waist circumference by approximately one inch, and
  • significantly reduced a blood measure called hemoglobin A1c (lower hemoglobin A1c indicates improved blood sugar control).

Lead study author Jeremy Krebs, MD, points to two key messages from this study. “The first is that no matter what diet we prescribe, people find it extremely difficult to sustain the changes from their habitual diet over a long time. But if they are able to follow either a high-protein diet or a high-carbohydrate diet, they can achieve modest weight loss,” Dr. Krebs stated.

Working the weight loss equation

This study brings home an eternal truth: Losing weight can be a challenge! But don’t lose sight of the fact that blood sugar control improved in all study participants, regardless of the diet followed. For anyone with diabetes or insulin resistance (a condition that can precede type 2 diabetes), this is great news. Our get-healthy tips will help you make smarter eating choices beginning today.

  • Focus on health, not appearance. This study shows even modest weight loss improves health. Other studies suggest people who focus on health, rather than vanity, are more successful maintaining weight loss in the long run, too.
  • Enjoy small victories. This study and others support the notion that small reductions in weight and waist size can improve blood levels of sugar, cholesterol, and triglycerides, all of which will keep you healthier, longer.
  • Go with what works. Both diets were low fat, but the carbohydrate and protein in the diet didn’t matter. This means that if your diet is healthy overall, focusing on calories, not protein or carbs, will get you results.
  • Stop dieting. It may seem strange to say “don’t diet” after talking about a diet study, but the truth is that losing weight takes work, and it takes lifestyle change, not a quick-fix diet.
  • Move, move, move. Any increase in activity will improve health, regardless of whether you lose weight. This gets back to the key point: health should be the focus. Even if you don’t lose a pound, make regular walking or some other activity part of your routine to bring your health up to the next level.

(Krebs JD, et al. 71st Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association)

Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by the New York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor.

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