The New York Times recently published an article Entitled “The Key to Weight Loss Is Diet Quality, Not Quantity, a New Study Finds”. It summarizes the findings of a recent study published in JAMA. The study size and methodology of the study make it unusual, so it is getting a lot of attention in the nutrition community, and it is getting a lot more press than usual. I’ve gotten a LOT of questions about that article in the days since, and this post answers the most frequent of those questions.
What did the study test?
In brief, about 600 people participated in the study. All of the participants learned how to prepare and eat healthier diets with an emphasis on minimizing sugar and processed foods. Half were assigned to a group that learned how to eat a healthy low-fat diet, and half were assigned to a group that learned how to eat a healthy low carb diet. They were not told to eat a certain number of calories or given macronutrient breakdowns.
What did the study conclude?
The study found that both groups lost weight by eating healthier, less processed foods. It also found that it didn’t really matter if you eat a low fat or low carbohydrate diet; as long as the diet is healthy, weight loss is likely. Further, the study ruled out certain possible genetic predispositions regarding weight loss.
Is it true that you can eat what you want if you just eat healthy food?
Sorry, folks, it’s not. The amount that you eat still matters, but if you are eating healthy food, you are likely to eat less because whole foods make you feel fuller for longer periods of time. Thus, if you eat healthy foods, you’re likely a) to eat less and b) to feel full longer. That means you are consuming fewer calories than you used to, and all other things being equal, you should lose weight.
In light of the study, what should I do if I want to lose weight?
There is no one-size fits all approach to weight loss. That being said, a great place to start is to make your food choices healthier! If you find you are losing weight simply by doing that, stay the course until you stop losing, then modify what you are eating. If you need help in doing either of those things, we’re here to help!