Diet for weight maintenance

Last week’s big diet news story was covered by the NY Times as “How a low-carb diet might help you to maintain a healthy weight.”(Ref 1) This was an accurate reflection of a very interesting article in the BMJ entitled “Effects of a low carbohydrate diet on energy expenditure during weight loss maintenance: randomized trial.”(Ref 2)

The trial was one of three supported with grants from the Nutrition Science Initiative (made possible by gifts from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and Robert Lloyd Corkin Charitable Foundation). Gary Taubes was one of the founders of the NuSi initiative.

The researchers recruited 234 adults with a BMI of 25 or higher to take part in the study. The first part of the study was called the run-in phase. Participants were all put on the same diet (45% carbohydrate, 30% fat and 25% protein), but with calories restricted to approximately 60% of normal intake. The aim was for the participants to achieve approximately 12% weight loss in a 9-10 week period. (To put this in perspective, if a 140lb person loses 7lb on Phase 1 of The Harcombe Diet, that’s a 5% weight loss in 5 days). Those who achieved the weight loss goal (164 people) were then randomly assigned to one of 3 diets for 20 weeks:

High carbohydrate diet: 60% carb; 20% protein; 20% fat.

Medium carbohydrate diet: 40% carb; 20% protein; 40% fat.

Low carbohydrate diet: 20% carb; 20% protein; 60% fat.

146 people completed the study. The results were presented in two ways: i) including the 164 people who started the 20 week weight maintenance phase and ii) including just the 146 people who completed the 20 week weight maintenance phase. You can read the full review of the article here and it explains why both methods should be included in a presentation of findings.


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