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August 22, 2013 | 3 minute read

Scientific Search for "The Best Diet" Distracts From The Real Issue

A provocative editorial in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association has many of us in the health field buzzing today.http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photography-nutritionist-holding-green-apple-weight-scale-image28463742

The essay, “A Call for the End to the Diet Debates” by Drs. Sherry Pagoto and Bradley Appelhans, argues that it’s time for the research and medical community to accept that when it comes to weight loss, there is no one diet that is best for everyone. They point to study after study in which scientist have pit, for example, the Atkins diet against the Mediterranean diet against low-fat diets, has not led to any clear answer for weight loss alone.

The real measure researchers should be looking at, they say, is not how many pounds individual subjects of these studies lost, but how able they were to stick to the diet in question. Or, in scientific terms, “adherence.”

Here’s the money quote from the article:

The assumption that one diet is optimal for all is counter-intuitive because this assumption ignores the variation in adherence influenced by food preferences, cultural or regional traditions, food availability and food intolerance …. The most important question is how to improve behavioral adherence.

In other words: We are all individuals, and the diet that works for one person won’t necessarily work for another. So it’s time to stop charting how many pounds this group of subjects lost on Diet X vs. that group of subjects on Diet Y.

Instead, the scientists argue, our research efforts should be spent figuring out how to individualize weight loss strategies to help people make long-term behavioral change that results in permanent weight loss.

We’re happy to report that Dr. Pagoto will be one of the speakers at this year’s AICR Research Conference. You can see her talk about her editorial on ABC-TV.

All of us at AICR believe that when it comes to getting to a healthy weight, which as we’ve shown is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself from seven different cancers, the plan that works is the plan you can follow. That’s why we built so much variability into our New American Plate approach to meal planning, and why we offer so many recipes and tips for transitioning to a plant-based diet.

What’s more, our Recommendations for Cancer Prevention are broad enough to provide an framework for healthier living that can be tailored to your preferences, and new research is showing that they represent a roadmap to lifestyle change that individuals can and do stick to.

One comment on “Scientific Search for "The Best Diet" Distracts From The Real Issue

  1. Patrick Suckoo, BA, DC on

    Custom diets or lifestyle changes for each individual works best for managing weight, diabetes, hypertension and blood lipids. Most people don’t eat enough vegetable, so adding 10-12 oz vegetable juice each day contributes a lot of nutrients to the diet.
    The word “Diet” seems to give people the impression that they won’t enjoy what’s coming next. What if you gave up all processed packaged foods, refined carbohydrates, sugar products, would you be on a diet?


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