AgCenter grad student crunches data to determine diet effectiveness

(09/02/22) BATON ROUGE, La. — Failing to lose weight — or even gaining some — while on any one of the numerous diets on the market can be crushing to those who struggle with obesity.

Why certain diets work for some but not others formed the basis of a study conducted by Jordan Losavio, a graduate student in the LSU AgCenter School of Nutrition and Food Sciences.

Under the guidance of her graduate professor, LSU AgCenter nutrition specialist Elizabeth Gollub, Losavio analyzed clinical weight loss studies that looked at three diet types: low carbohydrate, low fat and low calorie. The work was done in collaboration with Heidi Silver, a professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

“I was able to compile this huge data set for three different diet groups to try to determine why some diets work for some and not others,” Losavio said. “The question that I’m asking is a little bit different from other diet comparison studies because I’m looking at what underlying factors influence weight loss on certain diets.”

For the low-carbohydrate group, she determined that factors such as race, body fat percentage and fasting glucose came into play. For the low-fat group, factors were income, education, the hormone leptin, low-density lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol) and dietary adherence. And for the low-calorie group, age, eating behavior, total sugar consumption and leptin were the most significant predictors.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the overall obesity rate among U.S. adults is 41.9%. More than 38% of Louisiana residents are obese. The economic effect is substantial, costing the U.S. health care system nearly $173 billion a year.

Understanding how physiological, behavioral and environmental factors interact with specific dietary strategies can help inform personalized approaches to weight loss, Losavio said. These are more likely to lead to successful results and the reduction of cardio-metabolic disease risk.

“Instead of assuming all people are the same and the only thing we’re varying is the different types of diets, we now know that there are different factors that come into play,” she said. “So how can we take in that information and try to prescribe people a diet that’s going to work best for them?”

Gollub said the research is an important starting point for further exploration.

“This research is a great start, demonstrating the potential and the utility of considering an individual’s characteristics when selecting a weight management approach,” she said. “As the models improve, personalized approaches to successful weight loss will become increasingly realistic. As our body weight improves, so will our health.”

Jordan Losavio.

LSU AgCenter School of Nutrition and Food Sciences graduate student Jordan Losavio has conducted secondary analysis of clinical weight loss studies that looked at three diet types: low carbohydrate, low fat and low calorie. Photo provided by Julia Boudreau

9/2/2022 2:25:55 PM
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