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David Baxter

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No One Knows Which Diets Work Best
Mon Jan 3, 2005

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - No one really knows which diets work and which are a waste of time, with the possible exception of Weight Watchers, U.S. researchers reported on Monday.

A review of 10 separate studies of weight-loss programs showed there was very little hard data to support any commercial or nonprofit diet approach, the researchers found.

Only Weight Watchers had scientific research to back up its simple approach of keeping a food diary and focusing on low-calorie foods, especially vegetables and whole grains, they wrote in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

"With the exception of one trial of Weight Watchers, the evidence to support the use of the major commercial and self-help weight-loss programs is suboptimal," Dr. Adam Tsal and Thomas Wadden of the University of Pennsylvania wrote.

The pair started out scanning more than 1,500 diet studies, but rejected most because they were done outside the United States, had fewer than 10 participants, lasted only a few weeks or differed from the diet as offered to the public.

They also looked for at least one year of follow-up and did not include commercial self-help programs based on books alone or meal replacement plans.

They ended up with 10 studies that included Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, eDiets.com and the nonprofit Overeaters Anonymous group.

"Currently, the three largest nonmedical commercial programs in the United States are Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig and LA Weight Loss," Tsal and Wadden wrote.

The largest trial showed dieters using the Weight Watchers program lost and kept off 3.2 percent of their weight after two years.

"Weight Watchers, at $12 per week, is moderately priced, whereas the weekly costs of Jenny Craig's prepackaged meals ($70 to $100) make it expensive," they noted.

"Controlled trials are needed to determine the amount of weight lost and health benefits associated with Jenny Craig and LA Weight Loss programs," the study said.

Some diets can be dangerous, according to the researchers.

"Medifast offers both very-low-calorie and low-calorie meal replacement plans, which participants may purchase directly from the manufacturer," they wrote. But it does not require medical supervision, as is advised by government experts for very-low-calorie diets.

"Serious complications, including death, have been reported in obese persons who consumed very-low-calorie diets without medical supervision," they wrote.

Many Internet-based programs are available, but there is little study to show whether they work, the researchers said.
 

hkfiesta

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this makes me wonder~
if diets are not out in the world/society to help people, why were they invented and recognized in the first place?
i mean, we give out names, such as atkins, low-carb, no starch etc diets. Nutritionalists even sometimes recommend these diets. Yes, it is the wrong usage of a diet or over-use that usually causes a problem, but yet all this 'danger' makes me question whether or not diets should have been created? do the benefits outweigh the dangers? or vice-versa? should diets be used?
 

Daniel

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Another advantage of Weight Watchers is the group support that often creates a positive peer pressure to lose weight.

The problem with most diets is not health risks but just ineffectiveness. I would compare changing one's dietary lifestyle to changing one's personality. It's easy to at least portray an energetic personality for a job interview, but staying that motivated and energetic can be hard to do.
 
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hkfiesta said:
this makes me wonder~
if diets are not out in the world/society to help people, why were they invented and recognized in the first place?

This is going to sound cynical of me, but I think diets are big business. There's a lot of money to be made. Some of the diets are fairly sound, but a lot of them aren't. I read an article once about a woman who wrote diets for a women's magazine. They had to come up with something new every month, something that sounded good to put on the cover so that women would buy the magazine.

My thoughts are that small changes work better than drastic ones.
 

Daniel

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My thoughts are that small changes work better than drastic ones.

Good point. Like wheat bread instead of white bread, fruits instead of sweets, yogurt instead of sour cream or mayonnaise, popcorn or nuts instead of chips, Subway instead of McDonalds, water instead of soda, etc.
 

HA

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I got my Weight Watcher's material out today. What I like about the program is that it is easy for inexperienced dieter's. I had never dieted before so did not know what calories or fat in food really meant. It was like going to dieting class.

It is also user friendly. I did not have to calculate how many carbs, fat, or calories there were in every thing I ate, it was done for me in a little book and all I had to do was add up the points. The advantage of tracking what you eat and spendng the time to do it, is that it brings eating to a conscious level. I am a student, working full-time and doing volunteer work. It is very easy for me to just simply stop at Burger King or anything across the street and inhale while I'm running to catch the street car. I never thought I'd see the day that I did not care about what I ate as long as I was full but there I was.

The support group/class where you learn about techniques for dealing with certain foods and food situations was very helpful. You don't change your diet drastically but you do learn to develop or regain a healthy eating lifestyle and develop a friendly relationship with foods of your choice.
 

David Baxter

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Exactly: it "brings eating to a conscious level".

That's what I like about the Weight Watchers ap[proach: It doesn't try to tell you that you can never eat Food X again as long as you live. It doesn't tell you not to eat anything. It just tells you that whatever you eat or don't eat, there are consequences, so make an informed decision and understand that eating A may mean not eating B that day.
 

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