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Is one study of 51 men enough to declare the ‘two-week diet’ is better for dropping pounds?

Rating

3 Star

Categories

HOW TO LOSE WEIGHT: TWO-WEEK DIET BETTER FOR DROPPING POUNDS

Our Review Summary

This article describes a small and limited study (men only!) concluding that “intermittent” dieting that gives participants alternating cycles of two weeks of less restrictive weight-maintenance eating after two weeks of more restrictive calorie counts results in more weight loss over time.

The article properly notes the potential benefits of such a plan–better compliance and some possible metabolic assist that prevents dieting “plateaus” that frustrate so many trying to lose pounds. But while the article acknowledges the flaws in most trendy diets, it doesn’t offer readers enough specific information to determine whether this variation on the dietary theme will work for them any better than any other diet. For example, it doesn’t say what the two arms of the intermittent diet included in actual calorie counts and/or foods; what the starting and ending average weights were for the study group; or even how the researchers kept track of what the participants were actually eating or doing other than (presumably) weighing them every two weeks.

 

Why This Matters

It’s hard to exaggerate the confusion, frustration, misinformation, disinformation, and potential harm perpetrated by the gazillion diets proffered by those with and without any scientific basis to the growing numbers of obese and overweight in the U.S. and worldwide. Indeed, this Newsweek article starts out with just that notion, but can’t resist promoting yet another one based on very limited evidence and information. Diet studies are guaranteed instant news hooks, so it’s important that stories about them offer abundant context and detail.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

No information was included about the nature of the two diets involved in the study or their costs. Readers might want to know if pre-packaged meals were involved, or liquid meals, for example.

As we found after reading the study, the food intake of the dieters was highly controlled, and this would presumably cost money to mimic in real life:

“Meals were prepared by a commercial kitchen under the direction of a dietician and delivered to the participants homes each week.”

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

Not Satisfactory

The story notes that the men following the intermittent diet plan lost 47percent more weight than the control group, but not what the study group participants actually weighed before and after. It also notes that the intermittent dieters maintained an 18-pound loss six months after the study, but not whether they stayed on the diet or what other factors may have accounted for that outcome. Readers also won’t learn how many calories were consumed in each cycle of the study or what foods were involved.

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

Not Applicable

We’ll rate this N/A since it’s hard to imagine harm from restricting a third of normal calories for two week cycles over 16 weeks.

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

Not Satisfactory

As suggested above, readers needed more information about the men who participated (beyond age range), about what foods were in the diet plan and how the subjects eating, exercise or other habits were monitored; how active they were when not exercising, and what the follow up exam consisted of beyond a weight measurement. Also, what were the limitations of this study?

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

No mongering; the article did a pretty good job of noting the ups and downs of weight loss schemes.

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

Satisfactory

The article included an “outside researcher” who has some bona fides in the study of intermittent fasting, albeit not dieting, and quotes her essentially saying that the findings were significant and made sense to someone who studies dieting challenges.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

The story really could have used a sentence or two at least about published outcomes of other diet schemes to put this new one in context. The only hint of it is from the outside researcher who said her own study of intermittent fasting saw weight loss plateau around 16 weeks.

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

Not Applicable

It was pretty clear from the article that this was a small study and the absence of any specific information about the diet itself would lead a reasonable reader to conclude that this one is not commercially or otherwise available. That doesn’t mean people won’t try to devise one on their own.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The article explains how this diet differs from some others.

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

Satisfactory

There was a news release issued by the University of Tasmania but the article did quote an outside source.

 

Total Score: 4 of 8 Satisfactory

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