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A successful weight-loss diet - two years later

"Weight-loss diets are pointless," is something you often read. "All the pounds you lose just come back again once you stop dieting." You might think that these negative comments are based on solid scientific research, but nothing could be further from the truth. Researchers at the American Pennington Biomedical Research Center recently published the first study on the long-term effects of a strict weight-loss diet. The results are considerably more optimistic than the negative stories about dieting would have you believe.

The researchers got 18 healthy participants to diet for two years. They ate about 12 percent fewer calories than their body burned at the start of the experiment for the two-year period. A control group of 11 people did not diet.

At the end of the diet period the researchers followed the participants for another two years.

The weight-loss diet had resulted in a weight loss of about 9 kg. Two years later, about half of that lost weight had not been put back on.

A successful weight-loss diet - two years later

A successful weight-loss diet - two years later

The researchers asked the participants whether they avoided particular foods. The figure above shows that the participants who had dieted did so more often than the participants in the control diet, both while dieting and also afterwards. So the weight loss diet resulted in a permanent change in the participants' eating habits.

"Future research in a larger sample size with a more comprehensive assessment is needed to fully elucidate the maintenance of weight loss and its duration in normal weight individuals who are engaged in calorie restriction," the researchers concluded.

"Indeed, a cautious interpretation of our findings that is due to the small sample size and multiple comparisons is important because of risk of false-positive results. However, our results indicate that, 2 y after a 2-y intensive calorie restriction intervention, approximately 50% of calorie restriction-induced weight loss is maintained, probably because of lasting effects on behavior and dietary restraint."

Am J Clin Nutr 2017;105:928-35.

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