weight loss dietWhich Weight Loss Diet is #1? The South Beach Diet is rated tops in keeping the weight off according to researchers, and a weight loss diet high in protein, and with Low Glycemic Index (LGI) foods produces the best results. Many diets will take the weight off, but keeping it off requires a different mindset and regimen. Studies indicate that all diets (and calories) are not created equal.

A large European study published in the New England Journal of Medicine finds that a weight loss diet of low glycemic index foods and high-protein is best for maintaining weight loss, and The South Beach Diet happened to be the weight loss plan that most closely approached the optimum diet in the study. The Atkins Diet, which severely limits carbs, has a more liberal attitude towards the types of fats one may eat, and is much higher in protein. The researchers were quick to say that they did not endorse any particular commercial diet and stressed that weight loss programs should be individualized.

The scientists followed 780 participants who had already lost weight on a calorie-restricted diet and had been assigned, at random, to one of five different weight maintenance programs. Subjects who ate foods with a lower glycemic index and higher in protein not only continued with their maintenance diets better, but were also more likely to keep on losing weight over the span of the 26-week study. On the other hand, those designated to diets of foods with a higher glycemic index and low in protein more often regained their weight.

The glycemic index, used extensively in Diabetic Diets, reflects the effects of various foods on blood sugar levels. Non-starchy vegetables, legumes, grains that have been minimally processed, and fruits generally have a lower glycemic index, whereas processed foods have a higher glycemic index. A raw apple, for instance, has a much lower glycemic than apple juice or applesauce. Study subjects on the low-protein diets regained more than two pounds over the participants who consumed a diet with a high glycemic index. All the diets were moderate in fat content (25-30% of calories).

The low carb diet programs in the study, unlike Weight Watchers, did not restrict calories, but only varied the proportion of carbohydrates and proteins. And although none of the weight loss diets were considered “extreme”, the results were none the less significant. This suggested that even small decreases in high glycemic index foods or increases in protein can make a difference in weight maintenance, and rather modest changes can produce significant benefits.

Decreasing glycemic index and increasing protein are separate ideas but are related. Because, as you boost the protein in your diet, you are also lowering the glycemic level, and this counters the argument made by many that “a calorie is a calorie”. The high-protein, low-glycemic approach was also associated with greater compliance, as fewer participants in those diet groups dropped out of the study.

Other experts are, of course, skeptical about the results and differences remain about the best diet plan for comprehensive health. What is accepted by all is that the choice of diet is not the ultimate predictor of weight management. Exercise is recognized as crucial in weight maintenance. The greatest factor in overall health and weight maintenance is physical activity and not the types of foods. It is more important how much you eat and how much you move than what you eat after weight loss. The latest research is quite clear that increasing protein and decreasing refined, processed carbohydrates along with exercise is undeniably important for healthy living, and any weight loss diet.

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