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Low-Fat Diet does not always lead to Greater Weight Loss, Study Finds

Update Date: Oct 30, 2015 12:51 PM EDT

Low-fat diets are not superior to other types of diets, a new study reported.

For this study, the researchers headed by Deirdre Tobias, from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, analyzed data from 53 studies that involved a total of 68,126 people. The team compared the low-fat diet to higher-fat diets, such as the low-carbohydrate diet and the Mediterranean diet. The team focused on how successful the people were at losing weight in the long run. The researchers also looked at people who were not following a weight-loss diet plan.

"There is no good evidence for recommending low-fat diets. Behind current dietary advice to cut out the fat, which contains more than twice the calories per gram of carbohydrates and protein, the thinking is that simply reducing fat intake will naturally lead to weight loss. But our robust evidence clearly suggests otherwise," Tobias concluded.

The researchers reported that there was no significant difference between the average weight loss in people following the low-fat and higher-fat diets. People, who were on the low-carb diet, specifically, lost an average of 2.5 pounds more than people on the low-fat diet.

Low-fat diets, however, did result in a greater weight loss of an average of 11.9 pounds when compared to no diet at all. Weight loss was measured after at least one year. The team noted that overall, people who dieted in general lost an average of six pounds within a year, which is not "clinically meaningful," according to Tobias.

Although the team did not find a difference between low-fat and higher-fat diets, expert Abigail Wilson, who is a spokeswoman fro the British Dietetic Association, pointed out that the low-fat diet can be more effective if people were willing to make behavioral changes as well.

"The challenge with a low-fat diet, and with all dieting, is behavioral change," Wilson said to WebMD. "For long-term change, looking at reducing fat in your diet as much as looking at reducing the amount of carbohydrates is important."

Tobias added, "Being able to stick to a diet in the long term will probably predict whether or not a diet is successful for weight loss."

Connie Diekman, a director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis, also stated that the key to weight loss is sticking with these dietary changes.

"The result of this study on diet composition and weight loss seems to support results that have been observed in other studies," she said reported by the Chicago Tribune. "The conclusion from this, and similar studies, is that weight loss is not a result of limiting one calorie nutrient over another and that achieving weight loss is likely a matter of calorie control, in a manner that works for the individual."

The study was published in the journal, The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology.

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