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From The Sunday Times, April 4, 2010

A Dieter’s Dilemma by Anita Chaudhuri and Jon Ungoed-Thomas
New studies claim counting calories doesn’t work and fried breakfasts can help weight loss. We unpick the mass of confusing diet advice

A new study contends that cutting calories is a waste of time, a suggestion that comes close to heretical in the diet industry.

It is all incredibly confusing. Small wonder that 70% of diets will go out of the window this weekend, according to a survey by Retail Active, a business intelligence firm, as we munch our way through £290m worth of chocolate.

Why is there such a welter of often contradictory diet advice? And how should we know what, if anything, to believe?

The primary cause of the barrage of advice is that the battle against the bulge is a recent one. In the West, in particular, people have begun to put on weight, then obsess about losing it, only since the 1970s. Angela Tella, who works with the British Dietetic Association, said:

“One thing people need to remember is that nutrition is a relatively new science and the research is constantly evolving, just as with any scientific field like medicine, for example.

“However, having said that, there are a few constants, such as the ‘energy balance’ equation, which means if you burn off more calories than you eat, you will lose weight. That will never change.”

This may be true, but even such a basic concept is frequently misunderstood. According to research published last year, exercise does not have a significant impact on weight loss. The problem is that most exercisers indulge in the “compensation effect” after a workout and consume many more calories than they have expended.