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January 22, 2011

Weight Loss Programs: Do They Work?

Weight Loss Programs

Weight loss programs – how successful are they?   A study on the comparison of the Atkins, Ornish, Zone, and Weight Watchers diets concluded that adherence to a diet was more important than the type of diet or program (more details below).

With two-thirds of Americans now overweight or obese, more and more people are looking to weight loss programs.  With so many out there, which one should you pick? Based on the above it probably doesn’t matter.

Losing weight is one thing, keeping the weight off is another and generally the more difficult challenge.  The numbers can be discouraging as 85% of those individuals who lose weight regain it all within 2 years.

Successful weight loss programs must be accompanied with life-style changes. This includes healthier food choices, and increased physical activity level. Weight loss should be viewed in terms of a nutrition program, which is long term, rather than a diet, which is usually temporary.  Ultimately, managing weight is at the foundation for managing the aging process.

Weight Loss Programs, So Many Choices

Some weight loss programs are high carbohydrate and low fat.  Others are high protein and low carbohydrate or low fat.   As mentioned above, a study published in JAMA, “Comparison of the Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers, and Zone Diets for Weight Loss and Heart Disease Risk Reduction” concluded that each diet modestly reduced body weight and several cardiac risk factors at one year.  The adherence to the various programs was low, but those participants that adhered to diet lost more weight than those who did not.

To Drop Weight, Don’t Drop Out

In the JAMA study the drop-out rate from the study at one year for the different weight loss programs was 50% for the Ornish diet, 48% for the Atkins diet, and 35% for both the Weight Watchers and Zone diets.

One diet was not statistically better than the others in the amount of weight that was lost.  Women lost approximately 5 pounds on the diets, and men lost approximately 7 pounds.  Ten percent of the participants lost more than 10% of their body weight.

To Eat Healthy, Think Globally

 

Weight Loss Programs: Do They Work?
Mediterranean diet

The JAMA study did not look at the Japanese and Mediterranean diets which are associated with better longevity.   The Japanese diet emphasizes smaller portions of food.  Japanese typically do not eat until they’re full.  Dairy and bread are largely avoided.  There’s regular consumption of fish, fresh vegetables and fruits, rice (preferably brown), soy, noodles, and green tea.

The Mediterranean diet is also more of a lifestyle program.  Virgin olive oil is consumed in high amounts as are vegetable, fruits, and legumes.  Fish is consumed three to four times a week, and dairy products are consumed in mild to modest amounts.  Unrefined carbohydrates are consumed. Meat and saturated fats are kept to a minimum.  One to two glasses of wine is consumed with the main meal, and nuts are eaten as snacks.

Both the Japanese and Mediterranean diets encourage consumption of lower glycemic foods than the traditional American diet.  This keeps insulin

levels low.  Weight loss is difficult to achieve in the presence of high insulin levels even for those who exercise regularly.

Exercise and Optimal Hormone Level

Other keys to weight loss programs include attention to improving metabolism and optimal hormone levels) thyroid, testosterone, growth hormone, and in women – estrogen and progesterone).  An exercise program that includes moderate to heavy strength training and high intensity interval training will increase metabolism and stimulate the body’s hormone production facilitating weight loss.

See “Exercises to Lose Weight“, “The Safest and Fastest Way to Lose Weight”, and “Anti Aging Hormones“.

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Dr. Joe Jacko


Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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