Losing weight is the second hardest thing I ask my patients to do.  (Quitting smoking is the hardest.)  Typically, physicians have generally recommended a low-fat diet which is still the diet recommended by national guidelines.  Despite this, several different kinds of diets have become popular recently with varying amounts of carbohydrates, most notably the Atkins diet which is very low in carbohydrates and very high in fat.

This week’s Journal of the American Medical Association contains the first study comparing several such diets.  The study enrolled overweight women who had not yet gone through menopause and randomized them to four diets.  In order of carbohydrate intake the diets were the Atkins diet (very low in carbohydrates), the Zone diet (low in carbohydrates), a diet based on national guidelines (low in fat and high in carbohydrates), and the Ornish diet (very high in carbohydrates).  The women’s weights were followed for 12 months.

Women on the Atkins diet lost the most weight, 10.4 lbs on average.  The other three groups had approximately the same weight loss (the differences were not statistically significant) of on average 4.7 lbs.  Interestingly the number of calories consumed by the four groups was not statistically different.  The Atkins diet, because of its high fat intake is occasionally criticized for increasing cholesterol, but in this study cholesterol decreased by the same amount in all groups.

So the Atkins diet is a sensible choice for overweight women.  What I find most sobering is that even in the best diet after a whole year the average weight loss was only about 10 lbs.

Tangential Miscellany:

The results from the first month of the Pedometer Project are in!  In February participants tallied over 2.4 million steps.

The winner with most steps was Marcia W.  In her honor I’ll be donating platelets at Cedars-Sinai on March 20.

The winner for most improved walker in February was Richard T.  In his honor I volunteered at the Simms/Mann Clinic yesterday afternoon.

My congratulations to all the participants.