A two-year study aimed at comparing three types of diet plans found that the low-carbohydrate Atkins diet plan and Mediterranean diet rich in fish and nuts created slightly greater weight loss results than a low-fat plan based on American Heart Association dietary guidelines.
Researchers studied a group of 322 (45 women / 277 men) moderately obese Israeli dieters. Each diet participant was designated one of three diets to follow – a Mediterranean diet; a low-carbohydrate diet based on the Atkins diet; and a diet with 30 percent fat based on American Heart Association Guidelines.
The study was conducted at the Nuclear Research Center in Dimona, Israel, an isolated building that includes its own medical facility.
Due to the isolated location of the center, participants typically ate lunch in the research center cafeteria. Meals were color-coded to assist diet participants with their specified diet plan meal options.
For participants, regularly scheduled telephone calls and meetings with dietitians were included in the plan, while nutrition counseling was offered for the spouses of the participants.
Several dieters lost the most weight within five months on the plan. Mediterranean and low-fat diet participants lost an average of 10 pounds, while low-carbohydrate dieters lost up to 14 pounds.
When the two-year trial ended, all dieters regained some, not all, of the weight they had lost. The low-fat dieters experienced a total weight loss of 6 pounds, while low-carbohydrate and Mediterranean dieters lost about 10 pounds.
Betterments were seen in the ratio of good to bad cholesterol, in all dieters, which suggests a healthy diet has beneficial effects beyond weight loss, said Iris Shai, study author and dietician at the Ben-Gurion University at the S. Daniel Abraham International Center for Health and Nutrition.
Of the three types of diets observed, there were only slight variances accounted for between the men and women. Women had the most success on the Mediterranean diet losing up to 14 pounds compared to an average of 5 pounds on the low-carbohydrate diet plan.
In comparison men did better on low-carbohydrate diets, losing an average of 11 pounds in compared to 9 pounds on the Mediterranean diet plan.
Advocates of low-carbohydrate diets are not surprised by the findings, which they say confirm smaller, shorter studies that have been done over the past twenty years.
The study is published in July 17 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.