Monday, July 16, 2012

No More Short Term Diet Studies!

Today's just a short rant.

Had the occasion this weekend to leaf through some of my unopened stack of the medical journal Obesity.

In them I came across various short term and medium term diet studies.

While some of them were certainly interesting, I'm not sure how much value they add to the literature. What I'm getting at is that regardless of whether or not a short term intervention affects weight loss or weight maintenance, the importance of that fact is lost in comparison with whether or not the intervention affects a truly long term change.

So long as calories and overall intake arereduced, weight is going to be lost, but of course losing's no big trick, the trick's keeping it off.

Sure it's nice to read about your work with diet x, y, or z, but unless you can show me that the impact of your intervention lasts longer than a year or two, for me it's just going to get slotted into the same shelf occupied by literally 10s of thousands of diet books - possible solutions for the right individual, but far from universally applicable.

So obesity researchers, please, rather than publish your short terms studies, couldn't you just keep them going a while longer, or at the very least promise you'll keep them going after publishing your short term outcomes with the intention of trying to publish the longer term ones even if negative?  Yes it'll be more expensive and challenging, and no, I don't know where the money or resources will come from, but at least when you publish you'll be providing the world with truly useful information rather than perhaps a testament to the fact that in the short term, people are willing to put up with almost anything to lose weight.

[Stay tuned tomorrow for what I see as an absolute must for EVERY weight loss study and yet something I've never seen included in any study I've ever read]

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  1. Alexie7:43 am

    Dr Freedhoff, could you answer a question about long term weight loss/maintenance? I see the 95% figure bandied about a lot e.g. that 95% of people will regain the weight within five years.

    Is this established scientific fact? Or is in an Internet meme?

    Thanks very much!


  2. Sharon7:50 am mean to tell us that a 1-3 week study is NOT definitive? There goes my proposed study in which the participants spend an entire week walking at 1.0 MPH on a treadmill during their waking hours while working online, eating meals and socializing. I was SURE it was going to be a big success. Darn!

  3. Sharon7:58 am

    Alexie, if interested, you might want to check out a paper by Dr. Albert Stunkard from 1959 that seems to have originated that figure and been repeated ad nauseum in hundreds of papers ever since.

  4. The worst part is that they do major press releases and pitch the hype to the media which then further distorts the research. Cases in point:

    I point these out because the public can become easily influenced by these very strong conclusions along with bold, incorrect headlines. As a result, you're stuck feeling you don't know what to believe!

  5. Rebecca8:44 am

    I believe long-term weight loss is never possible without abundant nutrition. Read "Eat to Live" by Joel Fuhrman. It will blow your mind! (I've lost 28 pounds over the last year and continue to lose...)