TRYING to shed pounds through popular diets, including those involving liquid meals and non-prescription diet pills, have little effect compared with the old tried-and-tested traditional methods, according to a study released today.
Researchers said overweight people who said they simply ate less fat, took more exercise and used prescription weight loss medications were more likely to lose weight.
The study, conducted by scientists at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre in the United States, examined data on more than 4,000 obese adults from the US national health and nutritional examination survey.
They found that 63 per cent of those adults had tried to lose weight using a variety of methods.
Dr Jacinda Nicklas, lead investigator and clinical research fellow at Harvard Medical School, said liquid diets, non-prescription diet pills and popular diets showed no association with successful weight loss, and those who reported losing more than 10 per cent of body weight were less likely to report eating diet foods and products, compared with those who lost less.
Dr Nicklas also said the findings showed it was possible to tackle long-standing weight issues. “Despite popular perception that obese people are unable to lose weight, a substantial number of obese participants in our study did report successful weight loss, suggesting that some obese adults can and do lose weight,” she said.
The research, published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, found that participants were more likely to report a weight loss of at least 5 per cent of body weight if they reported eating less fat, exercising more, and using prescription weight loss medications. Those who lost at least 10 per cent were also more likely to have joined a weight loss programme.
Dr Nicklas added: “Although participants engaging in formal weight loss programmes may be required to consume certain diet products or foods, in our study, adults who said they used diet products were actually associated with being less likely to achieve at least 10 per cent weight loss.
“This suggests that the structure of being in a programme may be important. It is possible that some dieters may be overeating diet products because they believe they are healthy or low in calories.
“These results tell us that dieters use many weight loss strategies that are not associated with significant weight loss, including non-prescription weight loss medications. Public health efforts directing people to adopt more proven methods may be warranted.”
Around two-thirds of Scots are currently classed as overweight. Professor Colin Palmer of the Medical Research Institute at the University of Dundee said dieters should be wary of “miracle” solutions.
“Very little out there is a magic bullet,” he said. “In terms of losing weight, will power is the absolute king and is the only way. A lot of dieters aren’t aware of what they are consuming.
“It is very hard to lose weight and stop eating as much as you need to lose weight. The amount of exercise you would need to take is also a lot more than most people would appreciate.”