One Small Diet Change May Help Weight Loss

High fiber diet produced weight loss similar to that of more restrictive diet

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) You may not have to give your diet a complete overhaul to lose a little weight. Making just one change to your diet may help you drop a few pounds.

A new study found that a diet that focuses on one healthy habit — eating more fiber — helped people lose weight. This diet may not, however, promote overall health as much as a more detailed healthy diet.

In this study, people who ate a diet rich in fiber (from foods like fruit, whole grains and beans) lost almost as much weight as people who followed a more complicated American Heart Association (AHA) diet.

“We are pleased that a diet that encourages eating more fiber can provide similar weight loss to the more complicated AHA diet,” said lead study author Yunsheng Ma, MD, PhD, of the University of Massachusetts in Worcester, in an interview with dailyRx News.

Those in this study all had metabolic syndrome — a cluster of conditions like high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels. Dr. Ma and team looked at 240 patients, all of whom were obese. This meant that the study patients had a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight.

These patients were randomly assigned to either eat a diet with at least 30 grams of fiber a day or follow the AHA diet. The AHA diet has many components. Among these are a focus on more lean protein and fiber and less sugar, fat and alcohol. The dieters were not told to do any exercise.

Those on the high-fiber diet lost about 4.6 pounds. Those on the AHA diet lost 5.95 pounds. Both groups had better blood pressure, dietary quality and insulin response by the end of this study. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar. In type 2 diabetes, the body does not properly process insulin.

Eight people on the high-fiber diet developed diabetes during this study. Among those patients on the AHA diet, one developed diabetes.

Dr. Barry Sears, an expert in anti-inflammatory nutrition, told dailyRx News that “the benefit of any diet is not to lose weight, but to improve health."

The weight loss in both groups was small, Dr. Sears said, and because many people did not become healthier overall, he thought the comparison of both diets was not very useful.

Dr. Sears said that a more restrictive and higher protein diet would better treat health problems like metabolic syndrome.

Dr. Ma and team wrote that, despite the small weight loss and only modestly improved health of the study patients, their study did show that making a single diet change could lead to some weight loss and yield some health benefits.

But what's the key to losing more weight? Adding some form of exercise and watching calorie intake, Dr. Ma said.

This study was published Feb. 16 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

A grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute funded this research. Some study authors received personal payments from the study's grant funds.

Review Date: 
February 13, 2015
Last Updated:
March 16, 2015