Eating Fewer Foods May Maintain Weight Loss

Variety may be the spice of life, but it may also sabotage your diet.

A new study shows that reducing variety in the diet may help people lose weight and keep it off for good.

Researchers found that people who have successfully maintained major weight loss for several years ate less of a variety of foods within each food group than those who have recently lost weight.

They say the results show that reducing the number of different foods, especially fatty ones, may aid in long-term weight loss maintenance.

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Lose Variety, Lose Weight?

Prior studies have shown that eating a greater variety of high-fat foods and lesser variety of low-fat foods tends to make people eat more calories and hampers weight loss efforts. But researchers say it's not clear whether food variety affects long-term weight loss and maintenance.

In this study, which appears in the May issue of Obesity Research, researchers looked at the variety of foods eaten by people who have successfully maintained weight loss and compared it with those eaten by people who recently lost weight.

The more than 2,200 successful weight loss maintainers were part of the National Weight Loss Registry. They had lost an average of 70 pounds and kept at least 30 pounds of it off for nearly six years. The comparison group consisted of 97 individuals who had recently participated in a behavioral weight loss program and lost at least 7% of their body weight.

The study showed that successful weight loss maintainers ate less of a variety of foods in all food groups, especially those that were high in fat, such as fats, oils, and sweets, and consumed fewer calories overall than the others.

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Less Variety at the Top Counts

Although researchers had expected to find that successful weight loss maintainers ate fewer foods that were high in fat, they say they were surprised to find that they also ate less of a variety of low-fat foods.

Still, the greatest variety of foods eaten by the registry participants were those at the bottom of the federal food pyramid, including breads, cereals, rice, pasta, fruits, and vegetables. The least variety was found among foods at the top of the pyramid, such as fats, oils, and sweets.

In fact, the biggest difference between the two groups was in the variety of foods at the top of the pyramid with the successful weight loss maintainers eating less of a variety of these calorie-dense foods.

Therefore, researchers say that although the weight loss maintainers had lower overall variety in their diet, they ate a bigger variety of nutrient-rich and low-fat foods than in other food groups.

They say reducing variety in the diet may make it simpler and easier to maintain weight loss, but it may also make it more boring.

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By Jennifer Warner, reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD

SOURCE: Raynor, H. Obesity Research, May 2005; vol 13: pp 883-890.