Thursday, October 29, 2009

Diets, diets everywhere — but which one really works? Now, we've got the answer.

When Contributing Editor Christie Aschwanden first proposed we do a pioneering, massive Diet Face-Off project, I thought she was very smart. And crazy. "Smart" because this would be a scientific study unlike any other. It would be designed to find out which diet works best — not in a lab, not with researchers holding participants' hands, not with incentives to keep people in the study. We would find out what works best in the real world. Your world.

"Crazy" because this would be the biggest project Health has undertaken in its 18 years. It involved 1,000 women, four popular diets, more than a year of intensive
work, and so many dollar signs that my vision would blur every time we talked about it.

Christie and Deputy Editor Lisa Davis pursued the Face-Off doggedly. They chose the diets to test: lowcarb, low-fat, low-calorie, and lifestyle-changing. They teamed with David Katz, MD, director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, to develop a scientifically sound way to randomly assign women to the diets and track their progress. Then they recruited 1,000 women who wanted to lose some weight—and, not incidentally, help solve the mystery of which diets really work, one of the most frustrating conundrums of modern life. Can you imagine just how many e-mails 1,000 women might send in 6 months? At last count, 15,000-plus. Assistant Editor Amanda Storey handled them all with aplomb. "It was our first time doing this, and some of the technical glitches were frustrating," Amanda says. "But it was so exciting when we started to hear from women. It wasn't just the weight loss; some said their whole lives had changed because of the study. It was fabulous."

We think so, too. Take a look: The results of our Diet Face-Off start on page 104.

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