Competing dietary claims for weight loss: finding the forest through truculent trees

Annu Rev Public Health. 2005;26:61-88. doi: 10.1146/annurev.publhealth.26.021304.144415.


In response to an accelerating obesity pandemic, competing weight-loss diets have propagated; those touting carbohydrate restriction are currently most in vogue. Evidence that sustainable weight loss is enhanced by means other than caloric restriction, however, is lacking. Whereas short-term weight loss is consistently achieved by any dietary approach to the restriction of choice and thereby calories, lasting weight control is not. Competing dietary claims imply that fundamental knowledge of dietary pattern and human health is lacking; an extensive literature belies this notion. The same dietary and lifestyle pattern conducive to health promotion is consistently associated with weight control. A bird's eye view of the literature on diet and weight reveals a forest otherwise difficult to discern through the trees. Competing diet claims are diverting attention and resources from what is actually and urgently needed: a dedicated and concerted effort to make the basic dietary pattern known to support both health and weight control more accessible to all.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Composition
  • Body Mass Index
  • Diet Fads* / adverse effects
  • Diet, Reducing / methods*
  • Diet, Reducing / standards
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / analysis
  • Energy Intake
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Nutrition Policy
  • Nutritional Requirements
  • Nutritive Value
  • Obesity* / diet therapy
  • Obesity* / epidemiology
  • Obesity* / prevention & control
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Public Health
  • Research Design / standards
  • Satiety Response
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Weight Loss*


  • Dietary Carbohydrates