The TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes Diet) was developed by the National Institutes of Health’s National Cholesterol Education program in order to help patients lower their cholesterol levels using diet. Although it wasn’t designed specifically for weight loss, many people use it as a weight loss diet plan. It is endorsed by the American Heart Association as a heart-healthy regimen.
The main focus of the TLC Diet is to reduce saturated fat and cholesterol intake. Saturated fat (which is found mostly in meat, whole dairy products, tropical oils such as coconut oil, and fried foods) increases LDL cholesterol levels (“bad” cholesterol), which increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Understandably, the consumption of dietary cholesterol, which is found in eggs, dairy, and meat also increases blood cholesterol levels. According to the TLC diet plan, saturated fat should be kept to less the 7% of daily calories and cholesterol should be kept to 200 mg a day (that’s about 1 whole egg or 2 ounces of cheese). In place of saturated fat, the TLC Diet focuses on increasing one’s intake of fruits, vegetables, grains, low fat protein, monounsaturated fats (found in foods such as avocados and olives) and polyunsaturated fats (found in nuts, seeds, and other vegetable oils). The fiber in fruits, vegetables, and grains helps remove cholesterol from the body, while both monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats have been shown to reduce LDL levels. Monounsaturated fats have also been shown to increase HDL levels (“good” cholesterol). If after six weeks LDL levels haven’t dropped by 8 to 10% then 2 grams of plant stanols or sterols and 25 grams of soluble fiber are added each day.
If the only goal is to lower LDL cholesterol levels, men are advised to consume 2,500 calories per day and women 1,800. In order to turn this into a weight loss diet, men would limit their overall calorie intake to about 1,600 calories and women to 1,200 calories.
In 2008, researchers at the University of Michigan performed a review of the TLC Diet’s effectiveness for weight loss. In monitoring the weight loss of 120 overweight people for 6 months, they found that those on the TLC diet lost an average of 20 pounds.
A meta analysis of low fat diets published in the International Journal of Obesity also found that diets like the TLC diet were effective for weight loss. In reviewing the data from 16 trials and 19 intervention groups, researchers concluded that, even without intentional calorie restriction, a reduction in dietary fat leads to weight loss.
Studies reviewing the TLC diet have demonstrated its effectiveness in reducing cholesterol levels and promoting weight loss. It is nutritionally balanced and is endorsed by the American Heart Association.
There is limited support available for dieters. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s TLC diet manual is one of the only resources available and it doesn’t provide recipes to help dieters transition to a new way of eating. Additionally, in order to successfully stick to the calorie and fat restrictions, you will need to be able to effectively read nutrition labels.
The TLC diet is nutritionally balanced and will support overall health as well as weight loss.
As with all diets, if you are using the TLC diet to lose weight, you will have to limit your caloric intake. This means you will have to be mindful about the number of snacks you consume and how much dessert you indulge in. MealEnders can be a great way to help keep cravings at bay and stick to your calorie goals for the day.
The US Department of Health and Human Services created this convenient PDF to tell you everything you need to know about cholesterol, the associated health risks, and how to use diet to improve cholesterol levels.