Heart-healthy diets that reduce calorie intake regardless of differing proportions of fat, protein, or carbohydrate can help overweight and obese adults achieve and maintain weight loss, according to a study.
Researchers from the Preventing Overweight Using Novel Dietary Strategies (POUNDS LOST) study found similar weight loss after six months and two years among participants assigned to four diets that differed in their proportions of these three major nutrients.
The diets were low or high in total fat (20 or 40 percent of calories) with average or high protein (15 or 25 percent of calories). Carbohydrate content ranged from 35 to 65 percent of calories. The diets all used the same calorie reduction goals and were heart-healthy-low in saturated fat and cholesterol while high in dietary fibre.
On average, participants lost 13 pounds at six months and maintained a nine pound loss at two years. Participants also reduced their waistlines by one to three inches by the end of the study. Craving, fullness, hunger, and diet satisfaction were all similar across the four diets.
"These results show that, as long as people follow a heart-healthy, reduced-calorie diet, there is more than one nutritional approach to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight," said Elizabeth G. Nabel, director, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).
In the POUNDS LOST study, 811 overweight and obese adults aged 30 to 70 were assigned to one of four diets, and asked to record their food intake in a diary or an online tool that showed how intake compared with goals.
Overweight is defined by having a body mass index (BMI) - a calculation of the relationship between weight and height - greater than 25 and less than 30. Those with a BMI of 30 or higher are considered to be obese.
Sixty-six percent of American adults are overweight and of those, 32 percent are obese, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
Research was conducted in Boston at Harvard University School of Public Health and at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, La. Diets were adapted during sessions to the diverse cuisines from these two regions of the country.
"We were encouraged that, in addition to achieving and maintaining weight loss, study participants experienced other positive health changes as well," said Catherine M. Loria, Ph.D., nutritional epidemiologist at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), a division of the National Institutes of Health, in Bethesda, Maryland, said a NHLBI release.
These findings were published in the Thursday edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.