Fad Diets Don’t Help with Weight Loss or Improve Heart Health

18th November 2014

A recent study has shown that popular diets like Weight Watchers are not more effective than adopting a healthy lifestyle and it’s not likely that they will provide health benefits in the long term. When comparing diets against regular exercise and healthy eating, researchers from Canada’s McGill University found that although people on diets lose weight initially, within two years they tend to regain the weight. The research shows that dieters would be better off if they became more active and cut fat out of their diets. The research team analysed clinical trials on four popular fad diets: Atkins, Weight Watchers, Zone and South Beach. Each of these diet plans claim to improve cardiovascular health and promote weight loss. It was found that although the diets did help people to lose weight in the short term, the weight was regained soon afterwards. In the trials, dieters following the Weight Watchers Plan lost between 7.7 and 13.2 lbs after one year, and this result was just slightly better than following traditional methods such as exercising more and cutting fat out of diets. People on traditional plans lost between 1.8 and 11.9 lbs. Results from the trials of the Atkins diet again failed to show lasting benefits. In the trial comparing the South Beach diet to traditional techniques, there was no occurrence of weight loss over 12 months. However, the participants were severely overweight and had undergone gastric bypass surgery. There was also no difference between Weight Watchers, Zone and Atkins with regards to improving cholesterol, blood sugar levels, blood pressure or any other cardiovascular risk factors.

More people are living with obesity than ever before, and this puts them at a higher risk of health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. When discussing diets, Jewish General Hospital and McGill University’s Professor of Medicine, Dr Mark Eisenberg, said that although the diets are popular and contribute greatly to the weight loss industry, it is still unclear whether or not they are effective when it comes to helping people lose weight or decreasing the risk of heart disease. He went on to say that the evidence that these diets are beneficial in the long term is only modest, as the amount of trials carried out is so small and the results tend to be conflicting.

One in four adults in the UK are now overweight, and these numbers are set to increase to 60% of men and 50% percent of women by 2050. Obesity and diabetes costs the United Kingdom over £5billion each year, and within the next 36 years, this is likely to rise to £50billion.