There is a lot of stuff out there about a recent study comparing a regular low calorie diet with the low carbohydrate diet.

The conclusion?

Both work…it’s the amount of calories you eat that count.

But there are  lot of other interesting facts in the study.

I am using the original journal article, which alas is limited to those with a subscription (or who work overseas like myself). LINK. A good analysis of the article is HERE at the NYTimes.

To summarize their findings:

One: The “Low Carbohydrate” diet actually lost more weight in the short run, but by 12 months there wasn’t much difference between the groups. That is why articles conclude that it is calories that count, not the type of diet.

Two: The subjects were not massively obese, but had BMI average of 34%. Usually obesity is considered over 30%.

Three: Diabetics were excluded.

Four: The diet was 1200 to 1500 calories. Those involved ate on an average 750 fewer calories each day. Not a starvation diet, but if you eat a Triple Whopper, large fries, and Large milkshake, you’ve blown your calories for two days

In other words, the study proved that a bunch of normal chubby 40 somethings could lose weight simply by dieting, no matter what diet they used.

Now the bad news.

ONE: 69 people started in the study, but only 49 were still in it at 3 months, and only 37 people finished the study.

In other words, most people have a life, and say the heck with counting calories and feeling tired and hungry all the time.

Two: If you start out looking like Ms. Piggy, you don’t end up looking like Twiggy.

As the NYTimes noted:

Participants lost an average of 13 pounds at six months and had maintained about 9 pounds of weight loss and a two-inch drop in waist size after two years.

In other words, if you are a 200 lb woman, your weight goes down to 180 lbs, but then you end up 190 lbs.

So you end up one dress size lower.

So why diet? Well, the study shows that although none of the patients were diabetic, their “insulin sensitivity” improved.

This has to do with Metabolic syndrome, where the body becomes unable to use insulin effectively, and the end result is obesity and Diabetes.

So this might  be why even losing a few pounds and increasing your exercize just a bit results in lowering your risk of diabetes and other cardiovascular problems.

And then there is the question: Is the only problem self control, or is there more to it?

“The effect of any particular diet group is minuscule, but the effect of individual behavior is humongous,” Dr. Sacks said. “We had some people losing 50 pounds and some people gaining five pounds. That’s what we don’t have a clue about. I think in the future, researchers should focus less on the actual diet but on finding what is really the biggest governor of success in these individuals.”

There is a lot of research going on about why the sudden increase in weight which is now worldwide. Is it just due to the increase in the middle class? Or do chemicals in the diet or environment trigger changes of metabolic syndrome and weight gain in part of the population?

So until the docs and scientists figure it out, I have a few suggestions:

One: We docs know that even a small lowering of weight with lifestyle change can result in health improvements in populations with a high rate of Metabolic syndrome and Diabetes:

The DPP results show that people in the lifestyle change group reduced their risk of getting type 2 diabetes by 58 percent. Average weight loss in the first year of the study was 15 pounds. Lifestyle change was even more effective in those 60 years and older. They reduced their risk by 71 percent. People who took metformin and received standard information on exercise and diet reduced their risk by 31 percent.

So, ladies (and guys), although dieting won’t result in a dramatic weight loss, even a small change in diet and increase in exercize will improve your health.

Cut out the cakes, exercize, and try to limit snacking, and you just might see a difference.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket, and she writes medical essays at HeyDoc Xanga Blog.


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