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Clash of the Weight Loss Titans

Weight Loss Study Pits Atkins vs. Ornish vs. Zone vs. LEARN Diets
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Did the Atkins Diet Win? Some Say Yes continued...

He suggests that the Atkins Diet offers a simple way of counteracting these trends.

"Dr. Atkins just said, 'Don't eat any refined carbs, period.' And the carbs you do eat must be good, healthy carbs," Gardner tells WebMD. "And that is very much tied to the trend that is going on in the U.S. obesity epidemic. Maybe that is why the Atkins Diet was a little more effective."

Jeff S. Volek, PhD, RD, assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of Connecticut, has studied the Atkins diet in research partially funded by the Atkins Foundation. Volek says Gardner's findings extend and confirm previous research.

"Those assigned to the Atkins Diet had lower carbohydrate intake than the other three groups. So it is valid to conclude that the differences are due to carbohydrate intake," Volek tells WebMD. "We have been trying to say it is the carbs that are driving the physiology of weight loss and that we should be talking more about carb restriction than about fat restriction."

But this interpretation isn't unanimous.

Did the Atkins Diet Win? Some Say No

"What this study showed, yet again, is how difficult it is for people to lose weight no matter what the approach," Yale University psychology professor Kelly D. Brownell, PhD, tells WebMD.

Brownell wrote the manual for the LEARN weight loss program. Nutrition is only one part of the program, which also aims to help people change interpersonal relationships, improve physical activity, change behaviors, and change attitudes.

"The people trying to follow the Atkins diet lost about 10 pounds and the others lost about five pounds. Nobody will be terribly excited about those five extra pounds, given that where they started out was at 187 pounds," he says. "The message isn't that Atkins is better; it is that nothing works very well for people who are already obese."

Zone Diet creator Barry Sears, PhD, notes that none of the groups in the Gardner study followed their assigned diet plans.

"These results have no meaning in either the real world or in the world of controlled studies," Sears tells WebMD. "This is one of the first times Dean [Ornish] and I are going to agree. Even if Bob Atkins were here, he would say, 'This is not my diet.' You have the three tenors singing together, 'This is not my diet.'"

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