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If you’re like most readers of this blog, you are leaner than the average person but still not quite as lean as you would like to be. Obviously, you’re not going to reach your weight goal unless you change something. You need to either exercise more or alter your diet or both.

The exercise side of the weight-loss equation is pretty simple. The more time you put into exercise, the more fat you’ll burn off. Yes, exercise does increase appetite and food intake, so it is not the most efficient way to shed pounds. But a recent scientific review reported that the average person eats only three additional calories for every 10 calories he or she burns through exercise. So it does add up.

The diet side of getting leaner is more complex. The reason is that there are a millions diet plans out there, all claiming to be more effective than the rest. It really only makes sense to follow one at a time, so how do you choose the one that’s most likely to give you the best results?

A good way to narrow down the options is to ignore the media-driven popular diets and focus on the much smaller number of dietary strategies for weight loss that are supported by medical science. Among these are portion control, low energy density diets, and low glycemic index diets. So, which of these scientifically backed ways to lose weight is most effective?

A new study published in Nutrition Journal suggests that all there are more or less equally effective. The subjects of the study were 157 overweight men and women. Each of them followed  either a portion control diet, a low energy density diet, or a low glycemic index diet for 12 weeks.

Portion control diets simply entail eating slightly less. On such a diet you don’t necessarily change what you eat; you just eat smaller amounts of the things you normally eat.

A low energy density diet is different. With this approach you shift your diet away from foods that contain a large number of calories per unit of volume (such as fatty meats) toward foods that contain a low number of calories per unit volume (such as vegetables). There is no restriction on how much you eat on such a diet because the idea is that low energy density foods fill you up with fewer calories automatically.

A low glycemic index diet is different still. On this type of plan you shift your diet away from foods such as pastries that cause a rapid spike in blood glucose, which is followed by a spike in blood insulin, which in turn is followed by rapid fat storage, toward foods such as nuts that cause a smaller increase in blood glucose and less fat storage.

So, how do the results of these three disparate strategies measure up? After 12 weeks the men and women on the portion control diet had lost an average of 8.2 lbs. Those on the low energy density diet had lost an average of 9.1 pounds. Members of the low glycemic index diet group had lost an average of 7.5 pounds. The differences between these average amounts of weight loss were not statistically significant, so the competition among these three strategies was declared a draw. All three diets also had beneficial effects on blood pressure, triglycerides, cholesterol, fasting glucose, and systemic inflammation levels.

These results are good news. While it might seem nice to have one specific diet singled out as the best way to lose weight, it’s really better to have several options that are equally effective. Some people prefer a portion control approach to dieting because it’s simple. Others like the low energy density approach best because it allows them to full satisfy their appetite. Still others prefer the low glycemic index approach because it allows them to continue eating some of the foods they most enjoy, such as meat.

By choosing the diet strategy that you’re most comfortable with you will increase the chances that you’ll stick with it. And in the end the most effective way to lose weight is to stick with whichever diet you’ve chosen.

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