A one year study of popular diets found that women lost the most and had blood pressure and cholesterol level benefits from the Atkins diet.
After one year the average weight loss was over 10 pounds and they were sticking more to the diet. This is despite a larger weight loss of almost 13 pounds in six months.
To conduct the US$2-million study, 311 premenopausal, non-diabetic, overweight women were randomly assigned to follow either the Atkins, Zone, LEARN (Lifestyle, Exercise, Attitudes, Relationships and Nutrition) or Ornish diets. The four diets were chosen to represent the full spectrum of low- to high-carbohydrate weight-loss plans and participants were started off with eight hours of instruction from a dietitian.
The Atkins diet, popularized by the 2001 re-publication of “Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution,” is the lowest in carbohydrates. The Zone diet, also low-carb, focuses on a 40:30:30 ratio of carbs to protein to fat. The LEARN diet follows guidelines reflected in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food pyramid — low in fat and high in carbohydrates. The Ornish diet, based on bestseller “Eat More, Weigh Less” by Dr. Dean Ornish, is high in carbs and extremely low in fat.
At the end of the study, women following the Atkins diet had larger decreases in body mass index, triglycerides and blood pressure compared to women in the other three groups. As well, their high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the good kind of cholesterol, increased more than that of women on the other diets.
But critics argue that the study — to be published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association — isn’t a fair comparison because by the end, few women were following any of the diets strictly, although those in the Atkins group came closest.