Patients struggle to stick to their diet when they choose a plan they like

Overweight patients lost more weight when their physician assigned them a diet

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Philadelphia, June 16, 2015 -- Researchers say it's counterintuitive, but letting patients choose a diet plan based on personal preference may not help them lose weight. The results of a randomized trial are published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Regardless of the approach, greater adherence to dietary recommendations is the best predictor of weight loss. Researchers hypothesized that letting patients choose a diet they like might help them adhere to a program and lose more weight than if they were assigned a diet by their physician.

The researchers randomly assigned 207 participants to one of two groups: choice or comparator. The choice participants were given the option of following a low-carbohydrate diet without calorie restriction or a low-fat diet combined with calorie restriction. The comparator group was randomly assigned a diet. Both groups were offered group and telephone counseling sessions throughout the 48-week study. At 12 weeks, choice participants were offered the opportunity to switch diets if they were unsatisfied with the option they chose, yet very few switched. Contrary to expectations, patients in the choice group lost less weight and reported less dietary adherence and weight-related quality of life than those who were prescribed a diet.

According to the researchers, these results suggest that choosing a diet based on food preferences may make it difficult for dieters to scale down on the amount that they eat. Future research should consider matching the most effective diet to an individual using other patient characteristics such as metabolic profile or even genetic profile.

About Annals of Internal Medicine
Annals of Internal Medicine is one of the most widely cited peer-reviewed medical journals in the world. The journal has been published for 88 years and accepts only about 7 percent of the original research studies submitted for publication. Annals of Internal Medicine has a 2013 impact factor of 16.104, ranking it fifth out of 150 journals in the category "Medicine, General & Internal." The journal is published by the American College of Physicians (ACP). Follow Annals on Twitter and Facebook.