Diet in the management of weight loss

CMAJ. 2006 Jan 3;174(1):56-63. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.045037.


Obesity is an established risk factor for numerous chronic diseases, and successful treatment will have an important impact on medical resources utilization, health care costs, and patient quality of life. With over 60% of our population being overweight, physicians face a major challenge in assisting patients in the process of weight loss and weight-loss maintenance. Low-calorie diets can lower total body weight by an average of 8% in the short term. These diets are well-tolerated and characterize successful strategies in maintaining significant weight loss over a 5-year period. Very-low-calorie diets produce a more rapid weight loss but should only be used for fewer than 16 weeks because of clinical adverse effects. Diets that are severely restricted in carbohydrates (3%-10% of total energy intake) and do not emphasize a reduction of energy intake may be effective in reducing weight in the short term, but there is no evidence that they are sustainable or innocuous in the long term because their high saturated-fat content may be atherogenic. Fat restriction in a weight-loss regimen is beneficial, but the optimal percentage has yet to be determined. Longitudinal trials are needed to resolve these issues. In this article I discuss the evidence for and pitfalls of various types of weight-loss diets and identify issues that physicians need to address in weight loss and weight-loss maintenance.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diet, Reducing*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Dietary Fats
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Obesity / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Weight Loss*


  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Dietary Fats