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What type of diet works best for weight loss?

Consumer Reports News: July 29, 2008 10:39 AM

If you've ever tried to lose weight, you'll know it's not easy. For many years, people wanting to lose weight have been advised to follow a low-fat, calorie-controlled diet. This means cutting down on fats and sugar, but eating plenty of fiber, fruits, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates like rice and whole-grain bread or pasta.

For some people, this works well. But a big new study shows that this type of diet isn't the only option for long-term weight loss. In fact, other types of diet may work even better, although it's a bit early to say for sure.

The new study also looks at the Mediterranean diet and the low-carb diet. On the Mediterranean diet, you prepare meals using olive oil instead of saturated fats like butter, eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, and eat fish or chicken instead of red meat. On the low-carb diet, you cut down on carbohydrates such as pasta and bread rather than on fat. This last type of diet includes more fat from meat and dairy products.

The study followed people for two years, as they tried to stick to their diets. Most people lost some weight, no matter which diet they followed. But people on the Mediterranean diet and the low-carb diet lost an average of 3 to 4 pounds more than people on the traditional low-fat diet.

There have been worries about whether the low-carb diet is good for your health, because it tends to involve eating more fat than other diets. But in this study, people had better cholesterol levels on the low-carb diet than they did on the low-fat diet. This is a surprising finding. But it shows that a low-carb diet doesn't seem to be any less healthy than a low-fat diet.

What you need to know. If you're trying to lose weight (subscribers only) this study shows you have several choices when planning your diet. Choosing a diet that suits your tastes should make it easier to stick to, and improve your chances of success. You may find it helpful to talk to your doctor or to a dietitian first.

Anna Sayburn, patient editor, BMJ Group has partnered with The BMJ Group to monitor the latest medical research and assess the evidence to help you decide which news you should use.

Read about the 8 secrets of successful dieters, find out which 3 diet tactics are unlikely to work, and watch our dieter's kitchen video (above).

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