June 19, 2021   10:22am

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Dieting: Do Calories Count?

Atkins, Dean Ornish and Mediterranean Diets– they’re all right … and wrong

Apparently it doesn’t matter what type of food you cut out of your diet, but rather, the number of calories you cut out in general. According to a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, kicking carbohydrates is not the key to successful weight loss, and neither are high-fat, low-fat or high-protein diets for that matter.

“The key really is that it’s calories. It’s not the content of fat or carbohydrates, it’s just calories,” says Dr. Frank Sacks, a professor of cardiovascular disease prevention at the Harvard School of Public Health, in the article “Low-fat? Low-carbs? Answering best diet question” from CNNhealth.com.*

The study, conducted by researchers at Harvard and the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, followed 800 people in Boston and Baton Rouge, putting each participant in “one of four diets that reduced calories through different combinations of fat, carbohydrates and protein. Each plan cut about 750 calories from a participant’s normal diet, but no one ate fewer than 1,200 calories a day,” reads “Study Zeroes In on Calories, Not Diet, for Loss” in The New York Times.*

On average, participants lost 13 pounds after six months on their diets, which were also coupled with optional counseling sessions (finding that higher attendance at the sessions resulted in more weight loss). Participants also managed to keep about nine pounds off after two years, but many picked up their old eating habits within a year’s time.

The Times article also points out that with these findings, “‘It really does cut through the hype,’ said Dr Frank M. Sacks, the study’s lead author and professor of cardiovascular disease prevention at the Harvard School of Public Health. ‘It gives people lots of flexibility to pick a diet that they can stick with.'”*

So sweep all those “miracle diet” books under the rug and dust off your calculator. It’s time to go back to losing weight the old fashioned way– calorie counting.



CNNhealth.com, “Low-fat? Low-carbs? Answering best diet question,” by Madison Park, February 26, 2009

The New York Times, “Study Zeroes In on Calories, Not Diet, for Loss,” by Tara Parker-Pope, February 25, 2009

Snoety symbol