Health Services Research & Development

Go to the ORD website
Go to the QUERI website

Research News


HSR&D-funded Study on Diet Preference Shows Patient Choice May Not Be Best

June 18, 2015

The results of a study conducted by Dr. William Yancy and colleagues of the Durham VA Medical were published in the June 16 edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine.The study looked at patients' preferences in diet choice for optimizing weight loss.

In the HSR&D-funded study, investigators looked at the commonly-held notion that when electing to follow a weight-loss program, patients should choose the diet, as choice was thought to support adherence. In a randomized trial, 207 people were assigned to one of two groups. The intervention (choice) group was allowed a choice of either a low-carbohydrate, calorie-unrestricted diet (LCD) or a low-fat, reduced-calorie diet (LFD). (Participants in the intervention group were also allowed the opportunity to switch to the other diet after three months if unsuccessful or dissatisfied with their primary selection.) Participants in the control group were randomly assigned to follow one of the two diets for the duration of the study. All participants received diet-appropriate counseling in small group meetings every two weeks for 24 weeks, then monthly for another 24 weeks. All participants also received brief telephone counseling involving individual goal setting and problem solving halfway through each month in the latter 24 weeks.

Researchers theorized that those in intervention group would more closely adhere to their diet program, and thus would lose more weight than those who were assigned a program. After 48 weeks, participants who were allowed to choose their diet lost an average of 12.6 pounds, while those in the control group lost an average of 14.8 pounds.

Investigators suggest that future research should consider targeting diet to patient based on metabolic, genetic, or other characteristics that might predict improved outcomes.

The study has received coverage by the Los Angeles Times, CBS and Fox news, Yahoo Health, and WebMD, among others.