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Is There an Optimal Diet for Weight Maintenance?

  1. Top of page
  2. Is There an Optimal Diet for Weight Maintenance?
  3. Acknowledgments

In light of the current obesity crisis, prevention of weight gain and weight maintenance is critical. Is there an optimal diet for accomplishing these goals?

Data support the contention that those consuming low-fat, low-calorie diets are most successful in maintaining weight loss (194–196) (Table 18). Insulin and leptin responses to dietary CHO may play a role in the effects of these diets to sustain weight loss through long-term signals promoting decreased energy intake, increased energy expenditure, or both. Increased physical activity and decreased consumption of (high-fat) fast food meals are also key variables (46,195,197). Palatability and dietary variety within food groups may predict body fatness. McCrory et al. (198) report that the direction of the association depends on which foods provide the variety (e.g., the variety of sweets, snacks, condiments, entrees, and carbohydrates consumed was positively associated with body fat, whereas the variety of vegetables was negatively associated).

Table 19 summarizes the macronutrient composition of diets reviewed in this article. The last line represents the diet consumed by individuals enrolled in the National Weight Control Registry, who have maintained a 13.6 kg (30 pound) weight loss for at least 1 year but who, on average, have lost 30 kg and have maintained the loss for 5.1 years. Data from the Registry indicate that successful weight maintainers comsume a low-calorie diet containing ∼40 g of fat (24% of energy), 200 g of CHO (56% of energy), and 70 g of protein (19% of energy) (195–197). This diet most closely resembles the moderate-fat, balanced nutrient reduction diet promoted by every health organization in the United States. The high vitamin and calcium intakes of successful weight loss maintainers suggest they eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and calcium-rich foods (dairy). The low iron intake suggests a low intake of animal products.

The American public needs to be told (and believe) that diets are not followed for 8 days, 8 weeks, or 8 months, but rather form the basis of everyday food choices throughout their life. A diet high in vegetables, fruits, complex CHOs (whole grains and legumes), and low-fat dairy is a moderate-fat, low-calorie diet that prevents weight gain, results in weight loss and weight maintenance. It is associated with fullness and satiety. It reduces risk of chronic disease. It is fast, convenient, and inexpensive. How can we convince people it works, and to try it?

Acknowledgments

  1. Top of page
  2. Is There an Optimal Diet for Weight Maintenance?
  3. Acknowledgments

Support for this research was provided by USDA Research, Education and Economics.

We acknowledge the following individuals for their input during the writing and reviewing of this document: George Blackburn, George Bray, James Hill, Peter Havel, Irwin Rosenberg, William Dietz, Joseph Spence, and Barbara Moore.