Calories Count

March 19th, 2009 | Sources: Boston Globe, NEJM

fightingobesityAdding a skosh of reason to the endless cacophony emanating from Atkins advocates, Ornish impresarios  and South Beach braggadocios, scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health have shown they all work equally well and what really matters is total caloric intake…pure, plain and simple.

Frank Sacks and colleagues randomly assigned 811 overweight or obese men and women to one of 4 heart-healthy, reduced-calorie diets that differed in the proportions of carbohydrates, fats and protein.

They followed participants for 2 years, asking that they exercise for 90 minutes per week and inviting them to attend group support sessions along the way. There was some periodic individual counseling as well.

forperfectattendanceThe dieters recorded details of their food intake and tracked progress on a Web site.

Eighty percent of the subjects hung in there for the duration. By 6 months they had lost an average of 13 pounds, and they weighed-in at a minus 9 soaking wet when the study ended.

But the key was that subjects in all 4 groups had lost the same amount of weight and reduced waist girth by the same 2 inches. And all 4 groups experienced similar, modest beneficial effects on serum cholesterol and triglyceride levels and blood pressure.

notintheplanThe most successful dieters were those who regularly attended counseling sessions. They were good for a drop of 22 pounds on average.

“It’s just the calories that count,” Sacks underlined for the Boston Globe.

“The most important thing…to lose weight is to choose a heart-healthy diet and to keep the amounts down.”


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