Last updated on July 7th, 2011
They may be reluctant heroes, though.
In a study presented at the American Diabetes Association’s 71st Scientific Sessions this week in San Diego, New Zealand researchers compare the effectiveness of a low-fat, high-protein diet to a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet followed by groups of over-weight people with type-2 diabetes for two years. Both groups exhibited similar decreases in weight (-4.4 pounds from baseline) and waist circumference (high protein: –0.87 inches; high-carbohydrate: –1.14 inches). Seventy percent of the participants finished the program. The study authors themselves describe these results as “modest.” Their main point is also modest: “Adherence to diet in the ‘real world’ is the key to successful long-term weight loss.”
Indeed, they even admit that “the ideal dietary macronutrient composition for weight loss in patients with type 2 diabetes remains unclear.”
All of that seems reasonable enough. Actually, it seems boring and predictable. Losing under five pounds and an inch off the waistline over two years of dieting is hardly a ringing endorsement for either of the approaches tested. About all you can say is it’s better than nothing.
As usual, the popular press is less modest and less accurate. For instance, an article on USAToday.com proclaims in its title, “Study: Calories, not protein or carbs, are key to weight loss.” The study, of course, claims nothing of the sort. In the USA Today article, the study’s lead author is quoted as saying that it’s hard for people to stick with a diet, but if they can do so and lose weight, it can help them with their diabetes and heart disease risks. Ho-hum. Then the article quotes a registered dietitian as saying, “The bottom-line is that the issue for weight loss is calories. Not where those calories come from.”
This quote bolsters the slant being taken by USA Today, but again has little to do with the New Zealand study. Only two diets were tested in the study, so the data is incomplete.
Let’s try it again with a low-carb/high-fat diet in the mix and see if the “Calories In, Calories Out” crowd still has anything to brag about. Calories do matter in weight loss, but only when your body is burning them off your belly.