Special diet foods and products are not as effective for weight loss in obese individuals as heeding common advice to eat less and exercise more, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than a third of Americans are now obese and studies suggest that 50% to 70% of the population is trying to lose weight. National guidelines recommend that obese individuals should aim to lose at least 10% of their body weight in order to improve overall health, but even a 5% reduction is thought to be beneficial.
The authors of this latest study looked at diet and weight loss information for 4021 obese adults collected as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Sixty-three percent of those participants said they had tried to lose weight in the preceding twelve-month period. However, some weight loss strategies were found to be more effective than others.
“Liquid diets, non-prescription diet pills, and popular diets had no association with successful weight loss,” they wrote, “And those who reported losing ≥ 10% body weight were less likely to report eating diet foods/products, compared with those who did not lose≥ 10%.”
Of those who tried to lose weight, 41% were able to lose five percent of their body weight, and an additional 20% had lost ten percent of their weight – in line with the National Institutes of Health recommendation.
“Obese adults were more likely to report achieving meaningful weight loss if they ate less fat, exercised more, used prescription weight loss medications, or participated in commercial weight loss programs,” they wrote.
Of the reported strategies that worked:
- 65% ate less food
- 55% exercised
- 44% ate less fat
- 41% switched to foods with fewer calories
- 4% took diet pills prescribed by a doctor
And those that didn’t work:
- 41% drank lots of water
- 14% ate diet foods or products
- 10% took non-prescription diet pills, including herbal remedies
- 7% tried a liquid diet