Health & Wellness

The Diet That Works for You

 The diet most likely to work for you is the one you’ll stick to

If you’ve tried a popular diet such as the Atkins diet, Weight Watchers, or Jenny Craig but found that the weight came back, the problem may be that you haven’t found the diet that’s right for you. A recent meta-analysis published in The BMJ (British Medical Journal) that looked at 121 trials involving 22,000 overweight or obsese adults found the benefits gained from popular diets tend to disappear a year or so after the diets are dropped.

Researchers looked at 14 diets, grouping them according to whether they were low-carbohydrate, low-fat, or “moderate-macronutrient,” which category included diets with slightly more fat and slightly fewer carbohydrates.

Blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and weight tended to remain stable after six months but worsened following the 12-month mark, researchers found. Those who had practiced low-carbohydrate and low-fat diets saw the majority of their lost weight regained within one year. Many also saw a return of their high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, though there was an exception for those who had followed the Mediterranean diet, who continued to see a reduction of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol even after a year of going back to their usual way of eating.

The findings suggest it’s less about the diet that you choose, and more about your commitment to choosing one and sticking with it, says Dr. Robert Shmerling, a senior faculty editor with Harvard University Health Publishing.

“The trick is to pick a diet with foods you actually like so that it’s not so hard to stick with it,” he wrote in a recent blog post.

If you’re inclined to stick to a diet with the scientific data to back up its ability to keep you healthy, he recommends the Mediterranean diet, the only one that proved to have long-lasting positive effects on cholesterol levels. The diet is non-restrictive and refers to the typical eating habits of those in Greece and Italy. It’s based on the consumption of olive oil, legumes, unrefined cereals, fruits, and vegetables, a moderate to high consumption of fish, and a low consumption of meat.

The right diet should also be combined with an active life-style and a healthy sleep cycle, Shmerling said.

Photo: Unsplash/Jez Timms.