Dieting is the practice of eating food in a regulated fashion to decrease, maintain, or increase body weight. Dieting is often used in combination with physical exercise to lose weight in those who are overweight or obese. Some athletes, however, follow a diet to gain weight (usually in the form of muscle). Diets can also be used to maintain a stable body weight.
Diets to promote weight loss are generally divided into four categories: low-fat, low-carbohydrate, low-calorie, and very low calorie. A meta-analysis of six randomized controlled trials found no difference between the main diet types (low calorie, low carbohydrate, and low fat), with a 2–4 kilogram weight loss in all studies. At two years, all calorie-reduced diet types cause equal weight loss irrespective of the macronutrients emphasized.
Long-term studies of dieting however indicate that the majority of individuals who dieted regain virtually all of the weight that was lost after dieting, regardless of whether they maintain their diet or exercise program. Weight loss by dieting, while of benefit to those classified as unhealthy, may also slightly increase the mortality rate for individuals who are otherwise healthy.
The first popular diet was "Banting", named after William Banting. In his 1863 pamphlet, Letter on Corpulence, Addressed to the Public, he outlined the details of a particular low-carbohydrate, low-calorie diet that had led to his own dramatic weight loss.