How many times do you read “95% of all diets fail”?
That statement has become part of weight loss lore, and is the opening line for many a sales pitch. However each time I read the statistic it bothers me. Where is it from? Who said so? Is it a lie?
All evidence points to a very small study undertaken in 1959 by Dr. Albert Stunkard and Mavis McLaren-Hume. 100 patients were treated for obesity at a nutrition clinic at New York Hospital. Dr. Stunkard is quoted as saying:
The 100 patients in the study were “just given a diet and sent on their way,” he said.
“That was state of the art in 1959,” he added.
“I’ve been sort of surprised that people keep citing it; I know we do better these days.”
So there it is – a forty year old study of just 100 people.
UPDATE: More research has come to light since this article was first written. There are very few studies that check back after the initial weight loss period. However, a series of researchers at the UCLA looked at a number of dietary interventions – they discovered that most dieters gained back almost all their weight.
While we cannot put an exact figure on it (e.g. 95%) – we can conclude that most efforts at calorie restriction result in only very short-term weight loss, and, could even ultimately lead to weight gain/
References: NYTimes 1999, original study was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine 103(1):79-85.