“Dietary treatment of obesity” is a systematic review of research literature that suggests the best advice for the treatment of obesity. They provide evidence that certain approaches are better, but what’s surprising is how little evidence there is for many things we’ve all been told will help us lose more weight.

This review was published by the Swedish Council on Health Technology Assessment. Also called the SBU, this group states on their website “We are an independent national authority, tasked by the government with assessing health care interventions from a broad perspective, covering medical, economic, ethical and social aspects.”

So they pass our first test – they have some credibility.

When evaluating the best treatments for obesity, they reviewed the literature and provided results that included designations indicating what level of scientific data is available for particular approaches to weight loss. They used a scale that ran from “no evidence” to “strong evidence.”

Also, they specifically looked at how outcomes for obese individuals are different, depending on what advice they were given regarding how to lose weight.

I will detail here several bits of advice that reached the level of “moderately strong” and “strong” scientific data. Read the full report to learn all the things conventional wisdom recommends that were NOT supported by evidence!

There is moderately strong scientific data to indicate the following results at 6 months follow-up:

  • People advised to eat lower-carb diets lose more weight than those advised to eat low-fat diets.
  • People advised to eat lower-carb diets also lose more fat around the waist.
  • High-protein and low-fat diets performed similarly with regard to weight loss. (Remember, our primal diet was high-fat, not high-protein.)
  • Advice to increase dairy products also led to more weight loss.
  • While there are many reasons to engage in healthy exercises including the desire to build muscles, it doesn’t appear that it increases weight loss.

Here is one surprising quote about exercise:

“One message which is often repeated as a solution to the issue of excess weight is that people should eat less and move about more. Exercise has positive effects on physiological functions such as oxygen uptake and quality of life even for obese individuals, and it is well known that regular physical activity is linked with reduced morbidity and longer life. However, systematic overviews of the literature indicate that adding physical activity to dietary intervention for obese individuals has a marginal – if any – effect on weight loss at group level. The lack of effect can be explained by compensatory mechanisms, such as a lower degree of physical activity throughout the rest of the day or increased hunger and less of a sense of satiety in connection with meals.”

Their conclusion includes the following:

“This report indicates that there may be a range of alternative diets available which can all lead to weight loss, at least in the short term. However, advice on strict low carbohydrate diets is extremely un- common…Low carbohydrate diets, including strict ones, lead to greater weight loss than low fat diets in the short term, without the studies having indicated any adverse effects on blood lipids provided that the weight remains lower. Therefore, increased use of strict low carbohydrate diets for short-term weight reduction is one possible consequence of this report.”

Essentially they are saying that each person is unique and that a low-carb diet is a tool that really should be in our arsenal. Here at Healthy Dimensions we understand the physiology behind excess insulin and the great results of decreased hunger and cravings with the low-carb approach. That’s why we start there. Each individual can then use these important barometers to gauge how much carbohydrate they can include in their diet and still keep the hunger and cravings at bay.

They point out that for the longer term, simply providing advice to follow low-carb or low-fat healthy diets produces similar results (which are generally poor). This suggests that people need more than diet advice; they need support to stick with any weight loss plan.

This is why we develop a networking and support team for free ongoing support from other HD graduates, and offer scheduled Recharge Sessions. Other research has shown that having the support of other people is an important key to long-term success with weight loss!