A New Year; a New Diet Plan?

Over the past few decades there has been a lot of press given to the increase in the waistlines of the American population. In particular a naughty word has become more common in the health field vocabulary: OBESITY.

While there have been controversial findings as to the role of fat intake with regards to some health issues; it has become widely accepted that obesity is highly correlated with instances of diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) and other health difficulties.

Add to this the revolving popularity of various diet programs – from diet pills to the South Beach Diet, from Atkin’s to the ‘Subway diet’ – how are we, as increasingly critical consumers, to decide how to alleviate the need to shop for ‘roomier slacks’?

Research published in the January 4, 2006 edition of the of the American Journal Medical Association (JAMA) – Low-Fat Dietary Pattern and Weight Change Over 7 Years – may hold a suggestion.

In an on-going study of 48,835 people from 1993 to 2004, researchers found that a low-fat-high-carbohydrate diet was successful in losing weight – without increasing physical activity!

Wait a minute, is this just another diet fad or might this be the ‘American Diet Plan’ we’ve dreamed about?

There are a few caveats which should be observed – but, essentially, this research contains supporting evidence that we, Americans, CAN lose weight without facing another health industry naughty word: WORKOUT.

According to Dr. Robert W. Britton, MD and Taya Lawrence, RN of Niles, Michigan Lakeland Hospital; while this study was not intended, exactly, to look at weight loss; an important point is that, based on these results, one need not ‘diet’. That is, one would not have to decrease the daily caloric intake to lose or maintain weight.

Does this mean we can eat an ‘American meal’ and not gain weight?

The research is carefully worded – but, essentially yes – if we divert the fat calories in our diets to carbohydrates. Furthermore, this idea is precisely the advise University of Vermont Associate Researcher Martha Seagraves gives to her patients.

Usually, when one hears great news like this, one cannot help but become that cynic in the room who is just waiting to hear the list of exceptions and warnings. However, there are only a few main points we must together consider in this study:

1. The study was not intended to look into weight loss.

2. The study associates low-fat-high-carb diets with a lack of weight gain.

3. Researches studied postmenopausal women between 50 and 79 years of age.

4. Does a study of postmenopausal women hold anything for the rest of us?

Addressing points 1 and 2, the researchers were interested in “…examining the long-term benefits and risks of a dietary pattern low in fat, with increased vegetable, fruit, and grain intake, on breast and colorectal cancers and cardiovascular disease” – not weight loss.

However, let’s consider this, the researchers aren’t trying to sell us pills or make money on a diet fad – they’re only reporting the data that came out of their study. So we can feel good about where this is going so far.

Next, the authors of the study only go so far as to say “…a low-fat eating pattern does not result in weight gain…” Although, the data they present does support that the subjects who were in a low-fat-high-carb diet lost weight; whereas their counterparts who displayed little or no change in dietary patterns tended to gain weight.

The way one could see it is thus:, before I can lose weight, I’ll have to stop gaining weight! So maybe this is an intermediate step to losing weight – but, I get to do it while sitting down to a full plate!

Third and forth, what if I’m not between 50 and 79, I’m not postmenopausal, or I’m not even a woman! In the comment section of the report, the authors claim “…there is no reason to assume that these findings cannot be extrapolated to younger individuals and both sexes”. For further confirmation, I posed this statement to Lawence, Dr. Britton and Professor Seagraves. They all concurred that this in fact is a valid interpretation.