Losing weight is easy. The challenge lies in keeping the weight from coming back. Weight maintenance is difficult due to either psychological (motivation begins to decline over time) or physiological (an increase in hunger that often accompanies weight loss) reasons (1). But as virtually everyone knows, regain of lost weight is usually certain. Against this background of gloom comes new hope, according to a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine that demonstrates the superiority of a low-glycemic, moderate-protein diet as an effective strategy for maintenance of initial weight loss (2).
The study took place in eight European countries. The first phase of the trial involved participants who were placed on a low-calorie diet consisting of 800-1,000 calories for eight weeks through which they lost on average 22 pounds of body weight (and who knows how much muscle mass). After the weight-loss phase, the individuals were randomly assigned to one of five different diets and instructed to maintain their weight loss, although further weight reduction was allowed as well. Of the five groups, the one assigned to the low-protein and high-glycemic-index diet regained their lost weight. This is the typical type of dietary advice that is usually recommended to everyone.
On the other hand, the higher-protein, low-glycemic-index group lost an additional 5 percent of their body weight. In addition, they were less likely to drop out and had a higher rate of weight-loss maintenance. The other diets were between these extremes.
The authors’ conclusion was that the use of a higher-protein and lower- glycemic-index diet was the most beneficial dietary strategy for both weight-loss maintenance and adherence. Furthermore, this type of diet may serve as an effective strategy for those whose barrier to weight-loss maintenance in the past has been physiological rather than psychological (2).
Maybe they just should have recommended the subjects read “The Zone,” which made the same dietary recommendations 20 years ago (3).
- Ludwig DS and Ebbeling CB. “Weight-loss maintenance–mind over matter?” N Engl J Med. 363: 2159-2161 (2010).
- Larsen TM, Dalskov SM, van Baak M, Jebb SA, Papadaki A, Pfeiffer AF, Martinez JA, Handjieva-Darlenska T, Kunešová M, Pihlsgård M, Stender S, Holst C, Saris WH, and Astrup A. “Diet, Obesity, and Genes (Diogenes) Project. Diets with high or low protein content and glycemic index for weight-loss maintenance.” N Engl J Med 363: 2102-2113 (2010).
- Sears B. “The Zone.” Regan Books. New York, NY (1995).