Could crash diets be key to keeping weight off?


Dieters have long been warned that to keep the pounds off long term, the slow and steady approach is best. But new research is questioning that, with claims crash dieting is just as effective.

Four out of five crash dieters managed to hit the goal

In the past it's been suggested that adopting a quick-fix diet is bad for the health, as it can mean people don't get all the nutrients they need. It's also been claimed that any weight lost will eventually go back on once the dieter starts eating properly. The new study, published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, aimed to examine whether that was the case.

Two-hundred obese adults were split into two groups: one on a 12-week rapid diet plan and the other sticking to a 36-week regime. Those on the speedy diet ate food substitutes of between 400 and 850 calories a day. The others ate 500 fewer calories a day than is recommended for men and women. Anyone who lost 12.5 per cent of their body weight was then put on a plan to help them stick to that size over the next three years.

Four out of five crash dieters managed to hit the goal, but only half of the other group were successful. In the long term, both sets of people put on about 71 per cent of the weight over the next three years.

Professor Joseph Proietto of the University of Melbourne in Australia led the study and believes there are a couple of reasons for the findings. Chiefly it's thought losing weight quickly drives people to keep going, as it means the results are almost instantly visible. Also, swapping cooking for meal substitutes makes the whole thing easier.

However, before you ditch the fruit and vegetables for a life of shakes, it's important to take some other things into account. The professor stated that it's impossible to get all the vitamins and minerals the body needs from meal substitutes, so anyone using them will need to research supplements too.

Many healthcare professionals are sceptical about the research, again citing health concerns.

"One must remember that weight gain in many who are obese has occurred over years and reversal may need to be relatively slow so that the brain and systems that regulate appetite have time to reset," Professor Naveed Sattar of the University of Glasgow said.

So while crash diets might work, it's worth talking to your doctor before embarking on one. Everyone would love there to be a magic way to melt pounds away quickly, but it's not worth starving your body of essential nutrients just to drop a dress size.

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