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Daily Dose

Permanently changing eating and exercise habits

Will a high protein paleo or Atkins-style diet lead to more weight loss than a low-fat diet? Sherry Pagoto, a weight management clinician and associate professor of preventive medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, believes that is the wrong question to ask.

Instead, researchers should be trying to determine what really works to help people permanently change their eating and exercise habits to lose and keep off excess weight over the long haul, Pagoto wrote last Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

She bases her conclusions on a review of four meta-analyses that combined various diet studies to see whether any diet plans stood out as stars. These analyses found that the weight loss differences among dieters using different plans were small — typically 1 to 4 pounds — and that the biggest predictor of long-term success was whether dieters were able to stick with the plan permanently.


“Maybe we should shift our focus from what people should be eating — in terms of the ideal carb, fat, and protein ratio — to what is it that enables them to change their behavior for good,” Pagoto told me.

She’d like to see more research on the social, environmental, and emotional barriers preventing people from making healthful changes for life — and more insurance coverage for multi-session clinical treatments.