People who kept a written record of everything they ate lost more than twice as much weight as those who kept no records, say Kaiser Permanente researchers.

 “It seems the simple act of writing down what they eat encourages people to consume fewer calories,” observes lead author Jack Hollis, PhD, a researcher at Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore.

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In fact, their study shows a direct, linear relationship between the comprehensiveness of food diaries and the number of pounds shed. Those who tracked everything they ate and drank every day lost 6.2-9.5 lb; those who kept no records lost 3.5-4.25 lb.

In addition to recording all their food and drink consumption, participants were asked to follow the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension eating plan, to attend weekly support sessions, and to perform moderately intensive exercise for at least 180 minutes a week (i.e., 30 minutes a day, six days a week).
Of the 1,685 participants recruited at four sites across the country, 79% were obese (BMI ≥30). Mean age was 55 years; 44% were African American, and two thirds (67%) were women.
After about 20 weeks, participants on average completed their food diaries 3.7 days a week, attended 14 of 20 support sessions, and exercised 117 minutes a week. Nonetheless, the mean weight loss was 12.8 lb, and 69% of the subjects lost ≥8.8 lb.
A racial analysis showed African American men lost an average of 11.9 lb, while African American women lost an average of 9.0 lb. That compares with 18.7 lb for all other men and 12.8 lb for all other women (Am J Prev Med. 2008;35:118-126).
“African Americans have a higher risk of conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, that are aggravated by overweight,” notes Kaiser spokesman Danielle Cass. “The majority of African American participants in this study lost ≥9 lb, which is enough to reduce their health risks.”