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Swedish Weight Loss Program Works, Say Researchers

Tim Boyer's picture

In a recent article published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers from the Karolinska Institute and Uppsala University announce success toward weight loss from a study that followed approximately 9,000 dieters during one year in a Swedish weight loss program called “Itrim.”

The Itrim weight loss program consists of three dieting plans that dieters choose from depending on the rate of weight loss they wish to achieve. Pooled data from dieters in all three plans demonstrated an average weight loss of 11 kg (24 pounds) in one year’s time.

The three plans to choose from consist of:

1. A very low calorie diet (VLCD) of 500 calories/day consisting solely of meal replacements for 6-10 weeks.

2. A low calorie diet (LCD) 1200-1500 calories/day consisting of a mix of normal food and meal replacements.

3. A calorie-restricted normal food diet of 1500-1800 calories/day.

The Itrim weight loss program also involves one-on-one booster and group sessions, as well as an integrated exercise program.

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According to a press release issued by the Karolinska Institute, the researchers say that the initial weight loss is fast and significant, followed by a period of weight stabilization.

"Most of the participants lost a lot of weight in the first three months and then showed very good weight stability after one year," says Erik Hemmingsson, researcher at Karolinska Institute and Karolinska University Hospital's Obesity Centre. "However, we still don't know what happens in the longer term. Maintaining the lower weight is without a doubt the greatest challenge for dieters."

In the study that followed approximately 9,000 participants of which 21% dropped out of before the end of the one-year dieting program, 42% chose the VLCD diet, 51% the LCD diet, and 7% the calorie-restricted normal food diet.

As expected, dieters on the very low calorie diet lost the most weight. However, dieters on the less rigorous dieting plans lost significant amounts of weight too. On average, the VLCD participants lost 13.8 kg (~30 pounds) each; the LCD participants lost an average of 8.9 kg (~19.5 pounds) each; and the calorie-restricted diet participants lost 7 kg (~15 pounds) each.

Because the Swedish health care system lacks resources for helping overweight and obese individuals lose weight, commercial programs and the evaluation of—such as the Itrim weight loss program studied—play an important role in public health.

"Many overweight people therefore turn to commercial programs, where the effects often are unclear," says Dr. Hemmingsson. "So we really need to evaluate commercial weight loss programs."

For more information about the Swedish weight loss program Itrim, visit their website at itrim.org and/or search online for U.S weight loss centers that offer the Itrim weight loss program.

Image Source: Courtesy of MorgueFile

Reference: “Weight loss and dropout during a commercial weight-loss program including a very-low-calorie diet, a low-calorie diet, or restricted normal food: observational cohort study” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Nov. 2012); First published online September 18, 2012, doi: 10.3945/ajcn.112.038265; Erik Hemmingsson et al.