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Low-Fat Diet And Exercise Trump Food Fads And Supplements For Weight Loss: Study

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It doesn’t sound very glamorous, but there’s no getting around this one salient fact of life: If you want to lose weight, the most effective method is regular exercise combined with eating less fat.

A new study once again proves that this completely unsensational combination is the ultimate way to reduce your size. What’s more, the study found, other methods -- such as popular diets and dieting products -- were not associated with weight loss.

A team of researchers from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School contacted more than 4,000 obese Americans who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2001 to 2006, which was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The participants were all age 20 or older and had body mass indexes (BMIs, a ratio of weight to height) of 30 or more -- a clinical definition of obesity -- in the year before they were interviewed by the researchers.

During the interviews, they were asked whether or not they were actively trying to lose weight and, if so, how well they were doing. They were also asked about their methods, like whether they dieted, used supplements, exercised, or employed another weight-loss strategy.

Researchers found that about 63 percent, or 2,523 of the participants, were actively trying to lose weight. Of those, 60 percent had already lost a substantial amount of weight at the time of the interview: 40 percent had shed 5 percent of their initial body weight and 20 percent had lost 10 percent or more of their initial body weight.

So what was the best indicator of how successful a study subject was?

"Those who exercised more and ate less fat were significantly more likely to lose weight," said the authors in a statement. By contrast, "self-reported use of popular diets, liquid diets, nonprescription weight loss pills and diet foods/products were not associated with weight loss," they added.

That’s good news, according to the researchers.

"There are lots of fad diets out there as well as expensive over-the-counter medications that have not necessarily been proven to be effective, and it is important that Americans discuss product claims with their doctor before trying such products," said senior author, Dr. Christine Wee, Co-Director of Research in BIDMC's Division of General Medicine and Primary Care.

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