Comparison of the Atkins, Zone, Ornish, and LEARN Diets for Change in Weight and Related Risk Factors Among Overweight Premenopausal Women

Department of Medicine, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, United States
JAMA The Journal of the American Medical Association (Impact Factor: 35.29). 03/2007; 297(9):969-77. DOI: 10.1001/jama.297.9.969
Source: PubMed


Popular diets, particularly those low in carbohydrates, have challenged current recommendations advising a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet for weight loss. Potential benefits and risks have not been tested adequately.
To compare 4 weight-loss diets representing a spectrum of low to high carbohydrate intake for effects on weight loss and related metabolic variables.
Twelve-month randomized trial conducted in the United States from February 2003 to October 2005 among 311 free-living, overweight/obese (body mass index, 27-40) nondiabetic, premenopausal women.
Participants were randomly assigned to follow the Atkins (n = 77), Zone (n = 79), LEARN (n = 79), or Ornish (n = 76) diets and received weekly instruction for 2 months, then an additional 10-month follow-up.
Weight loss at 12 months was the primary outcome. Secondary outcomes included lipid profile (low-density lipoprotein, high-density lipoprotein, and non-high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and triglyceride levels), percentage of body fat, waist-hip ratio, fasting insulin and glucose levels, and blood pressure. Outcomes were assessed at months 0, 2, 6, and 12. The Tukey studentized range test was used to adjust for multiple testing.
Weight loss was greater for women in the Atkins diet group compared with the other diet groups at 12 months, and mean 12-month weight loss was significantly different between the Atkins and Zone diets (P<.05). Mean 12-month weight loss was as follows: Atkins, -4.7 kg (95% confidence interval [CI], -6.3 to -3.1 kg), Zone, -1.6 kg (95% CI, -2.8 to -0.4 kg), LEARN, -2.6 kg (-3.8 to -1.3 kg), and Ornish, -2.2 kg (-3.6 to -0.8 kg). Weight loss was not statistically different among the Zone, LEARN, and Ornish groups. At 12 months, secondary outcomes for the Atkins group were comparable with or more favorable than the other diet groups.
In this study, premenopausal overweight and obese women assigned to follow the Atkins diet, which had the lowest carbohydrate intake, lost more weight at 12 months than women assigned to follow the Zone diet, and had experienced comparable or more favorable metabolic effects than those assigned to the Zone, Ornish, or LEARN diets [corrected] While questions remain about long-term effects and mechanisms, a low-carbohydrate, high-protein, high-fat diet may be considered a feasible alternative recommendation for weight loss. Identifier: NCT00079573.

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    • "We did not address whether it would be easier to adhere to a reduced-fat or a reduced-carbohydrate diet under free-living conditions. Since diet adherence is likely the most important determinant of body fat loss, we suspect that previously observed differences in weight loss and body fat change during outpatient diet interventions (Foster et al., 2010; Gardner et al., 2007; Shai et al., 2008) were primarily due to differences in overall calorie intake rather than any metabolic advantage of a low-carbohydrate diet. "
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