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It's the Calories That Count, Not the Food Combinations

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April 7, 2000 (New York) -- We all know someone who's on one, been on one, or swears by a trendy diet that proclaims the key to weight loss is not eating certain foods together.

Whether you're talking about a "combination diet" such as the "Fit for Life" diet plan that says you should never combine fruits and other carbohydrates with proteins, or the "Carbohydrates Addict" diet that says you can only eat carbs for one hour each day, the first clinical study of combination diets shows that these diets -- and others like them -- are no better or worse than traditional balanced diets.

Confirming what many nutritionists and weight loss experts have been saying for years, it's the calories -- not the food combinations --that count, the study shows.

Reporting their findings in the April issue of the International Journal of Obesity, Alain Golay, MD, of the University of Geneva in Switzerland, and colleagues report that obese adults lost about the same amount of weight whether they were on a food combo diet or a traditional balanced diet.

All 54 study participants were put on a 1,100 calorie-per-day diet for six weeks. Half of the participants consumed the diet normally, while the other half ate fat and carbohydrates separately. For example, a typical lunch for participants on the balanced diet included low-fat meat or fish, vegetables, rice, pasta or cereal, fruit, and oil. A typical lunch for a participant on the combined diet included low-fat meat or fish, vegetables, low-fat fresh cheese, and oil. Both diets contained similar amounts of fat, and cholesterol and calories were distributed between breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a bedtime snack.

The people on the balanced diet lost an average of 16.5 pounds, while those on the food-combining diet lost an average of 13.6 pounds. Participants in both groups showed identical decreases in body fat, blood sugar levels, cholesterol, blood fats, and insulin. High levels of blood sugar, insulin, cholesterol, and blood fats increase risk for heart disease and diabetes.

The bottom line, according to Arthur Frank, MD, medical director of the George Washington University Weight Management Program in Washington, is that "you can't eat more to weigh less -- it's the calories that count."

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