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Researchers Put Commercial Diet Plans to the Test

No eating plan stood out in terms of lasting weight loss, researchers noted

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 12, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- There are plenty of famous-name diets for weight loss, but none stands out from the pack when it comes to lasting results, according to a review published online Nov. 11 in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

Renee Atallah, a research assistant at Jewish General Hospital/McGill University in Montreal, and colleagues looked at 12 clinical trials that tested at least one of four popular diets: Atkins, South Beach, Weight Watchers, and the Zone. All of the trials lasted at least one year, and most compared one commercial program against "usual care" for overweight patients, such as advice on low-fat eating. Two trials compared Atkins, Weight Watchers, and the Zone head-to-head.

The researchers found that tested against usual care, Weight Watchers was the most consistent -- helping people lose an average of 8 to 13 pounds in the first year. Only one trial tested South Beach -- a lower-carb diet -- and it was no more effective than the American Heart Association's recommendations on low-fat eating. When it came to Atkins -- the most famous of the low-carb diets -- the results were more mixed, Atallah's team reported. The weight loss at one year ranged from about 7 to 24 pounds, but Atkins was not consistently better than low-fat diets. And in the head-to-head trials, Atkins, Weight Watchers, and the Zone all showed similar effects: They helped people lose an average of 4 to 10 pounds in a year.

And in the few trials that lasted two years -- all looking at Atkins or Weight Watchers -- people often regained some of the pounds they lost. "From our results, no weight-loss diet came across as a clear winner," Atallah told HealthDay.

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