Diet guru's might not be happy to hear about the results of some compelling new research. It seems it doesn't matter which diets for weight loss you choose - low fat, low carb or high protein.
What does matter is cutting the number of calories you take in each day and sticking to it.
With the ever-rising obesity rates, and related health risks, many people around the world have turned to diets that promote one nutrient over another; fads and gimmicks that promise results but offer little hope of lasting weight loss.
Interestingly, while earlier research has shown both low carb and low fat diets to be effective, the latest work found a more basic rule to be true - losing weight comes down to calories taken in verses calories burned off each day.
Take in fewer calories than you burn and you will lose weight.
"The hidden secret is it doesn't matter if you focus on low-fat or low-carb," said Dr. Elizabeth Nabel, director of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the organization that funded the research.
The study appeared in the February 26, 2009 New England Journal of Medicine (along with an accompanying editorial) and involved a team led by Harvard School of Public Health and Pennington Biomedical Research Center.
The highly experienced group of diet researchers were looking to see which weight loss plan, all variations of popular options out there today, was most effective over the long haul - beyond the one year point.
The team was attempting to come up with hard and fast data to support the effectiveness of one plan over another.
The subjects in the study, 811 overweight adults, were randomly assigned to one of four diet plans.
Each plan offered fat, protein and carbs in different amounts, allowing the subjects healthy fats, lots of whole grains, fruits and vegetables while also being low in cholesterol so each diet met guidelines for cardiovascular health.
The participants were told to cut 750 calories a day from their diet, exercise an hour and a half per week, keep an online diary of what they ate, and meet regularly with diet counselors.
The result? No diet plan distinguished itself from the others.
The reductions in weight and waist size were similar in all four diet groups, subjects losing 13 pounds on average at the six-month mark. All diet groups had their weight creep back on after a year.
At two years the average weight lost was about 9 pounds; reductions in waist size held at about 2 inches. Only 15% of the dieters in the study achieved a weight loss of 10% or more of the weight they started at.
It's also important to note that the subjects who had regular counseling got better results.
The people who attended the most meetings lost more weight than those who didn't. It's a big difference too - meeting goers lost 22 pounds, compared to 9 for less involved participants.
This suggests that beyond diet plan you follow; behavioral elements may play a major role in weight loss.
The trick is to find a healthy diet that contains foods that taste good, and that you can really follow all the time every day and on holidays, at home and on vacation.
A restricted calorie diet gives people more choices of what they can eat, so long as the number of calories stays below the total for the day.
The trouble with many diet plans is that people have a hard time sticking with them.
Sure cutting carbs might work for a time, watching fats or upping your protein may all be helpful, but in the end you just can't eat this way over the long haul.
This study lasted for two years, and participants had trouble sticking with a single eating approach for that long.
This is cause for concern. These subjects were carefully chosen, well educated and enthusiastic.
"Even these highly motivated, intelligent participants who were coached by expert professionals could not achieve the weight losses needed to reverse the obesity epidemic," Martijn Katan of Amsterdam's Free University writes in the editorial that accompanies the research.
The take away message from this research is that you don't need the fancy diets for weight loss. Reliable support, consistent effort and good common sense are the way to lasting weight loss.