Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

Dieting: What We Think We Know

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The following article is in my opinion, one of best in terms of what we really know about diets/dieting. The article from the New York Times was written by Gina Kolata who also authored a book in 2007 entitled Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss and the Myths and Realities of Dieting. Please understand and be aware of the pitfalls of dieting before beginning any weight loss program.

Highlights and Summary: What We Know About Diet and Weight Loss, NYT, December 10, 2018


Most studies given participants low-fat or low-carb diets (same calories) lost the same amount of weight after one year.

Patients given a low-carb diet compared to a high carb diet kept more weight off after weight loss by burning more calories.

People vary considerably in their response to dieting; some lose, some lose no weight; others actually gain weight.

Weight loss studies vary considerably in their design, most are short-term; many result in differing outcomes.

Some calorie restriction diets can eliminate whole food groups and thus become unhealthy in the long term.

Some research but mostly anecdotal evidence suggest that a low carb diet can reverse (not cure)  diabetes type2.


Responses to dieting are complex due to many factors such as genetics, motivation, physiological effects of insulin that are highly controversial and debatable. Thus, examining all these variables should be considered in research studies (if possible).

There is little research on techniques that are effective to prevent weight regain after weight loss.  Why do some people regain most if not all of their lost weight as exemplified on the recent TV show “The Biggest Loser?”

There is a huge debate on which types of foods, if any are contributing to the obesity epidemic. Sugar is the current culprit as well as refined and starchy foods, refined grains and oils. Some countries have cut back on added sugars as weight gain has continued which suggests that sugar may not be the reason.

There are so many factors that collectively may have contributed to the global increase in body weight: large portions, snacking, fast foods, ultra processed foods, and smoking cessation. Sorting them out is the challenge.




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