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Atkins fares best in study of four weight-loss regimens


4 Star

Atkins fares best in study of four weight-loss regimens

Our Review Summary

This is a story describing a recent study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association which compared weight loss after a year of following one of four popular diet plans.  It is  the best comparison of these popular diets to date.  The story details the weight loss and changes to the lipid profiles and includes helpful comments by nutrition experts.  It would have been a stronger study if it had included costs of treatment and treatment options for obesity.  In addition, the perspective that the weight loss was minimal in all groups should have been emphasized.  However, if most Americans are gaining several pounds per year, even a modest weight loss may represent benefit from any dieting plan.  

The study found that the weight loss observed in the study ranged from 3.5 lbs to 10.4 lbs after one year of dieting.  While this might be discouraging to readers, it would have been helpful to clarify that the weight loss of the study participants was less than might be expected for individuals actually following any of the diet plans that were studied.  This is an important perspective to share with readers interested in making an informed decision about diet for weight loss.

Overall, though, this was a balanced and complete story with good input from good sources.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story did not mention the relative costs for following any of the particular diets mentioned.  It did not mention the cost of the books nor the costs associated with dietician visits.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


The primary outcome of the study was weight loss; after a year, individuals on the Atkins diet were reported to have lost about 10 pounds as compared to about a six pound loss on the other four diets.

The quantitative information on the other clincial parameters measures were not reported.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?


The story mentioned a concern with the Atkins diet that it would result in increased LDL cholesterol but that the study did not find this to be the case.

The article on which the story was based reported on the reasons people did not complete the study; there were no serious medical harms found.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?


The story presented the results of a recently published scientific article on a randomized trial comparing four popular weight loss diets.  It presented estimates of the weight loss observed after one year and mentioned changes in other clinical parameters (triglcyerides, blood pressure, HDL cholesterol) without providing precise details about these. 

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


The story did not engage in disease mongering.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?


The story included interview material with several nutrition scientists who had no connection with the study that was the subject of the story. It also contained critical comments from two individuals whose diet plans were studied.  These comments came from respected individuals in the field and are a particularly valuable addition to the content.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

The story reported on weight loss outcomes comparing four different methods for altering food consumption to result in weight loss.  However additional treatment options were not even mentioned, such as balancing caloric intake with exercise, and weight loss surgery for the morbidly obese.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


This story reported on a study that compared weight loss of overweight and obese individuals who followed one of four popular weight loss diets.  The story mentioned that the people in the study were given a book on the diet that they were assigned to follow and the books used are available commerically.  It would have been helpful to readers to include explicit details on the specific books used.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


The information presented is not novel and was not presented as a new finding. 

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?


Does not appear to have relied solely or largely on a press release.

Total Score: 8 of 10 Satisfactory


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