A new study in this week's New England Journal of Medicine evaluates
the health effects of three of the most popular diets to combat
overweight and obesity. VOA's Jessica Berman reports from Washington
obesity has reached epidemic proportions globally and is a risk factor
for illness and death.
According to the World Health
Organization, 1.6 billion adults are overweight or obese, putting them
at risk for heart disease, diabetes and cancer. That number is
expected to soar to 2.3 billion by 2015, owing to fast food and
Experts agree that getting the weight
off can be life saving, but an international team of researchers wanted
to find out the long-term health effects of three of the most popular
Investigators compared the standard
calorie-reduction diet, the Mediterranean diet that is high in olive
oil and grains, and the popular high-protein diet in a group of 322
middle-aged, moderately obese individuals working at a research center
At the end of the two year study, researchers found
those on the high-protein diet lost the most weight at 4.7 kilograms
and kept it off, followed by those on the Mediterranean diet at 4.4
kilograms. Those on the calorie-reduction diet lost the least amount
of weight - 2.9 kilos.
More important, according to study lead author Iris Shai of Ben Gurion University of the Negev, were the cholesterol levels.
says the high protein dieters, who were not calorie restricted, had a
20-percent reduction in their total cholesterol levels compared to a
12-percent reduction among low calorie dieters, whose plans included
Shai says that could be important for a dieter
with high cholesterol who has to lose weight. "So maybe the message
here is carbohydrates must be much more risky than we thought and
omitting them benefit obese patients."
Among diabetic participants, researchers found the Mediterranean diet did a better job in maintaining blood glucose levels.
Cheskin runs a diet and nutrition program at Johns Hopkins University
in Baltimore, Maryland. For now, Cheskin cautions against reading too
much into the study. "You know, even though we have studies such as
this one that we are discussing suggesting that you can lose weight
better on a low carbohydrate diet, we have the evidence from many
people in non-Western countries that a low fat, relatively high
carbohydrate diet results in good weight control," he said.
Shai believes the results of her study in the New England Journal
suggest that people need to work with their doctors to tailor a weight
loss reduction plan to their particular medical needs.