According to a study of 311 women carried out by researchers at Stanford University, USA, the Atkins diet is the best one around. Those following the Atkins diet had best blood pressure levels, better cholesterol levels and lost the most weight, compared to people on other diets, say the researchers.

You can read about this new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The JAMA article stressed that the researchers looked at the short and medium term benefits of some diets, but not the long term outlook.

The scientists (in this 12-month study) say there was no evidence of health problems emerging after people have been on Atkins for a year. The Atkins diet, according to several critics, is the cause of health problems later on. The researchers did find that certain basic vitamins and minerals were not at ideal levels for some people on Atkins - but could not detect any health problems.

In this study, four diets were examined. The 311 women were randomly selected to be on one of the following diets:

-- The Atkins Diet
A very low carb diet

-- The Zone Diet
A diet consisting of 40% carbs, 30% protein, 30% fat

-- The LEARN Diet
A high carb with low fat diet

-- The Ornish Diet
Super high carb with super low fat diet

After an initial eight-week induction, all the participants were monitored at the end of 12 months.

Here are some of the results (averages):

-- The Atkins women lost 4.7 kilos (10.4 pounds)

-- The LEARN women lost 2.6 kilos (5.7 pounds)

-- The Ornish Women lost 2.17 kilos (4.8 pounds)

-- The Zone women lost 1.59 kilos ((3.5 pounds)

The Atkins women also had the lowest levels of harmful cholesterol, the highest levels of good cholesterol and the most ideal blood pressure levels, when compared to the women in the other three groups.

Opinion of the Editor of Medical News Today

I would like to see two more studies:
1. A longer-term one on these diets
2. Four groups as above, compared to a fifth group which engaged in regular physical activity but followed no planned diet.

I still wonder whether the greatest long-term impact on weight might be physical activity, rather than diet. Obviously diet plays a part, but I would like to know whether exercise is a bigger factor. In the 1950s adults in the USA and Western Europe consumed more calories each day than they do today - but they were leaner. Adults in the 1950s were much more physically active than adults today.

Who would be healthier after ten years - a couch potato who has the ideal diet, or someone who runs two miles five times a week, but follows a bad diet?

If you want to lead a healthy life, most people agree that you probably need both - a good diet plus plenty of exercise.

Comparison of the Atkins, Zone, Ornish, and LEARN Diets for Change in Weight and Related Risk Factors Among Overweight Premenopausal Women
The A TO Z Weight Loss Study: A Randomized Trial

Christopher D. Gardner, PhD; Alexandre Kiazand, MD; Sofiya Alhassan, PhD; Soowon Kim, PhD; Randall S. Stafford, MD, PhD; Raymond R. Balise, PhD; Helena C. Kraemer, PhD; Abby C. King, PhD
JAMA. 2007;297:969-977.
Click here to see abstract online

Written by: Christian Nordqvist
Editor: Medical News Today