What’s the best diet for weight loss?

What’s the best diet for weight loss? Adkins, the Zone, low-carb, high-carb, low-fat, no sugar, wheat-free, dairy-free, low-cal, Paleo, vegan, HCG?

There are a lot of diets out there promising to be the answer to your weight loss prayers. All you need to do is buy their books or supplements or prepared meals and the pounds will start falling off. Many claim to have scientific research to support their views on nutrition and health.

Yet most fail to be the panacea they represent themselves as.

While it’s certainly possible to find people who’ve lost weight following each of these diets, there are also lots who haven’t lost a pound. Perhaps we only hear about the success stories. When was the last time someone told you they had religiously followed a popular diet and failed to lose weight?

Recently, I attended the Fitness and Health Bloggers Conference in Denver, Colorado. For me, the biggest take home message of the conference could be summed up by the following slide (taken from Dr. James Hill’s presentation, “The Importance of Evidence Based Approaches to Health and Wellness”);

Dr. James Hill

Source: Sacks FS. et al. NEJM 2009;360(9) 859-873.

On the left (circled) at the number of people who lost weight; some ‘big’ losers, a few moderate losers. On the far right are the people who gained weight; as much as 5 kg by the end of the study. Most people are in the middle; at about the same weight they were when they started the diet. Note that the people in the study were all obese (BMI > 30), not those aiming to lose the ‘last 10 pounds’.

(What this figure doesn’t tell us is how hard each of the diets is to adhere to; however, sample sizes in each group are the same, so all of the individuals pictured above made it to the end of the study. Perhaps I should write a post about diet adherence)

The take home message? Macronutrient manipulation is not important to weight loss for the clinically obese. Reducing calories is. Unless you have specific dietary issues (e.g., allergic to gluten or dairy or nuts), any calorically restrictive diet you choose will be equally likely to lead to weight loss.

So, what’s the best diet for weight loss? Any diet that you can stick with for as long as it takes the weight to come off.

Eat less, move more, forget cutting out entire food groups and don’t worry so much about your carb to protein to fat ratio.


Have you ever tried one of the diets pictured above?

What type of results did you get? Was it hard to stick to?