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Are Diets a One-Hit Wonder?

Diets can spur on weight loss, but their benefits are fleeting.


When people embark on a weight loss journey, there are a plethora of diets for them to consider, from paleo to Whole30 to intermittent fasting. Some people may even try their hand at plant-based keto or the fierce-sounding Warrior Diet.

But recent research suggests it doesn’t much matter which diet a person clings to, as most plans yield similar short-term results without providing long-term success. Consider data from an analysis published in The BMJ of 121 clinical trials involving 22,000 people with overweight and obesity. The research review found that 14 popular diets with various macronutrient intakes—including low-carb or low-fat—led to some modest weight loss (8–11 pounds) and improvements in certain heart disease risk factors (like blood pressure) at the 6-month mark. After a year, though, the benefits had largely dwindled away, with little to distinguish the diets from one another. (Only the Mediterranean plan led to a continued reduction in LDL cholesterol.)

Now, this doesn’t mean people who are struggling with their weight should not attempt a new approach to eating. Instead, after a certain period—say, around 6 months—the narrative should shift toward maintaining the initial success by implementing strategies that can hold up for the long term. This might mean moving from numerous restrictions to a more balanced approach to whole-food nutrition, while simultaneously working on strengthening positive habits, such as mindful eating.

See also: Analyze Today’s Hot Button Issues in Nutrition


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Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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