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Focus on calories, not where they come from

Focus on calories, not where they come from

When it comes to dieting, we’ve all been bombarded with conflicting advice — some experts say to avoid fat, while others recommend limiting carbs. So who’s right?

According to a new comparison of several diets published Jan. 18 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, neither really matters, as long as you cut back on your overall calories.

In a study, researcher Dr. George Bray of Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and his colleagues, randomly assigned several hundred overweight or obese people to one of four diets: average protein, low fat and higher carbs; high protein, low fat, and higher carbs; average protein, high fat and lower carbs; or high protein, high fat and lower carbs.

Each was designed to cut 750 calories a day from the participants’ energy needs.

Their weight, fat mass and lean mass was measured after six months and again at the two-year mark. During the first check, people had lost more than nine pounds of fat and close to five pounds of lean mass, but some of this was regained by the time they were assessed again 18 months later.

But most importantly, researchers found no differences in weight loss or fat reductions between the diets. “The major predictor for weight loss was ‘adherence.’ Those participants who adhered better, lost more weight than those who did not,” Bray told Reuters Health.

“If you’re happier doing it low fat, or happier doing it low carb, this paper says it’s OK to do it either way. They were equally successful,” said Christopher Gardner, a Stanford University professor who was not involved in the study. He added that because many people struggle with dieting, they should select the plan that’s easiest for them to stick with.

Dr. Bray concurred, saying it’s important for future research to focus on how best to get people to maintain their diets, and concluded, “This area of ‘weight loss and weight maintenance’ seems to me to be one where fresh insights are most needed.”

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