Often when trying to lose weight we tend to look at the broader picture, i.e. how much weight we will lose by a certain amount of time. But Mark Bittman over at The New York Times examines another factor that may be more important in deciding which diets to try.

He tackles the idea of weight loss retention, which is a significantly more important facet of weight loss. Simply put, losing weight is easy, but keeping off the weight is much more difficult. Research has shown that people concerned about their fitness and diet levels have an exponentially harder time keeping weight off once they’ve shed the pounds.

Researchers at the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center in Boston Children’s Hospital did a trial with three different people, using three different diets all equal in calorie count, examining people’s ability to maintain weight loss over time.

“One was a standard low-fat diet: 60 percent carbohydrates — with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables and whole grains (but not unprocessed ones) — 20 percent from protein and 20 percent from fat,” states Bittman. “Another was an ultra-low-carb diet (for convenience, we’ll call this “Atkins”), of 10 percent of calories from carbs, 60 percent from fat and 30 percent from protein. And the third was a low glycemic diet, with 40 percent carbs — minimally processed grains, fruit, vegetables and legumes — 40 percent fat and 20 percent protein.”

The results varied.

The “Atkins” diet burned 350 calories more per day, than the standard low-fat diet, which burned 150 calories more. Yet the Atkins diet also increased levels of what is referred to as C-reactive protein (CRP), which is a hormone that mediates stress. But it was considered the best for increasing your metabolism. But the main problem here? People can’t stick to low-carb diets.

Bittman states that “Over the long term, the low-glycemic diet appears to work the best, because you don’t have to eliminate an entire class of nutrients, which our research suggests is not only hard from a psychological perspective but may be wrong from a biological perspective.”

So what’s the answer?

Although various diets may offer similar results, the most important thing that we can really do to enable weight loss retention is to stick to unprocessed foods, including all carbs. It gives anyone a better chance at losing that weight, and keeping it off.


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