Weight Loss: Faster Diets Are Good Too, Shows Study

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American adults are more obese than ever and still growing larger. It's a problem that millions struggle with and one that helps make weight loss a billion-dollar industry.

Though fad diet books are immensely popular, slow and steady weight loss has long been recommended by health professionals. Now new research is showing that quick-loss diets might actually have some merit.

The study, published today in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, pitted current dietary guidelines against more rapid weight loss techniques. Researchers found that obese people are more likely to lose a substantial amount of weight if that weight is lost rapidly.

The study looked at 200 obese adults who were put on either a 12-week diet of 450 to 800 calories per day or a more gradual 36-week diet. Participants on the 12-week diet were more likely to reach the 12.5 percent weight loss goal of the study. Those on the 36-week diet were more likely to drop the program early.

“Global guidelines recommend gradual weight loss for the treatment of obesity, reflecting the widely-held belief that fast weight loss is more quickly regained," said Katrina Purcell, co-author of the study and a dietitian at the University of Melbourne. "However, our results show that an obese person is more likely to achieve a weight loss target of 12.5 percent weight loss, and less likely to drop out of their weight loss program, if losing weight is done quickly.”

Purcell and her colleagues suggested that the small amount of carbohydrates seen in quick-loss diets could help promote satiety. The study's authors also hypothesized that ketone production resulting from low-calorie diets could be influencing the greater weight loss seen in the study.

As for the canard that diets simply don't work, the study did find that dieters are likely to gain back weight after ending a diet. Whether weight is lost quickly or slowly, dieters were found to have regained an average of around 71 percent of their lost weight three years after the diet ended.