Researchers examined 4,200 studies and selected 11 weight loss plans
Included Atkins, Jenny Craig, meal replacements and online support sites
Wanted to see how successful they were at first and in the long term
Very few plans had evidence they worked better than getting information elsewhere for free – or that they helped weight stay off permanently
From high protein to low fat, calorie counters to slimming shakes, we are bombarded by diet plans promising the holy grail of weight loss.
But if you just can’t shed the pounds – or keep them off – then help may be at hand.
A landmark report claims to have established which diets are most likely to work – and keep the weight off in the long term.
The US researchers say very few of these – often very expensive – weight loss plans have solid evidence to back up their claims.
In fact, the results suggest only a few programmes have shown their users lose more weight than those not using them.
Others produce no better results than people dieting on their own or getting health information elsewhere, while some may actually be harmful to health.
Crucially, very few have been shown to keep the weight off permanently.
But a handful – including Weight Watchers, the Atkins diet, Jenny Craig and NutriSystem – do appear to be effective, according to long-term studies.
The research, from Johns Hopkins University, was prompted by doctors seeing an increasing number of obese or overweight patients wanting to join popular slimming clubs or diet plans.
The researchers say reliable proof of which ones work has become increasingly important as doctors and health bosses come under increasing pressure to tackle the obesity epidemic.
To draw their conclusions, they first reviewed 4,200 studies involving these diets for solid evidence of effectiveness.
However only a few dozen of the studies met the scientific gold standard of reliability – using properly controlled clinical trials.
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