Harvard Asks and Answers, “What’s the Best Diet?”
A group of doctors and researchers from the Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, decided to investigate the answer to that question which is so often asked today.
They started by recruiting 800 overweight men and women between the ages of 30-70 years. They divided them into four groups. One followed a low-fat, high-protein plan; another ate low-fat, average-protein; a third group was asked to follow the high-fat, high-protein approach popularized by Dr. Atkins some years ago; and the last one ate high-fat, average-protein.
The doctors, recognizing the vital importance of coming up with effective solutions to help people reduce their weight and improve their health, worked diligently, carefully monitoring the test subjects for two years.
The final results revealed a very significant finding: All the plans worked about the same. As long as the overweight individuals in the study lowered their calorie intake, they were able to lose weight and improve their health.
The New England Journal of Medicine published the findings of this study in its prestigious journal, February 26, 2009. In reading the full report, I carefully reviewed the methods utilized in the study and looked over the data which supported the findings. It was all pretty much plain vanilla until I unexpectedly came across something that didn’t make the headlines, but perhaps should have.
On the next to last page, in pretty small print, the report revealed that study participants who attended support group sessions over the course of the study lost an average of 20 lbs. Interestingly, the people who didn’t attend the group meetings sustained an average weight loss of only 9 lbs at the end of the 2-year research project. That’s a 225% difference! It didn’t matter which eating plan they followed, if they attended the support group sessions, their results more than doubled.
One of the researchers very astutely concluded that the study demonstrates effective weight management isn’t a matter of finding the right macronutrient (protein, carbs, fat) combination; it’s a matter of finding the right support.