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TLC Diet

Is TLC the best diet to lose weight?The TLC diet is a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet that will help reduce your chances of developing heart disease. Created by the National Institutes of Health, the principle aim of the TLC diet is to cut dangerously high levels of cholesterol, specifically low-density lipoproteins (LDL), which pose a major cardiovascular risk. The idea is to make “Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes” rather than rely on drugs to lower cholesterol.

The TLC diet is endorsed by the American Heart Association as a sensible means of lowering cholesterol without the need for medication. If followed correctly, it can lower levels of LDL cholesterol by up to 10% in six weeks. The diet is increasingly favored by physicians as a better way to reduce cholesterol than statins, which have unpleasant side effects for at least 25% of patients.

How does the TLC diet work?

As with all of the best diets for lowering health risks, the key to the TLC diet is a sharp reduction in saturated fat intake. Fried foods, dairy and red meat are particularly high in saturated fat, and can send cholesterol levels dangerously high. The TLC diet advises avoiding these altogether, and eating more food high in fiber.

The TLC diet offers some very specific guidelines regarding healthy eating:

  • No more than 7% of a day’s total calories should come from saturated fat
  • No more than 35% of a day’s total calories from other fats
  • Dietary cholesterol should be limited to 200 milligrams per day (roughly the amount in 2 ounces of cheese)
  • Sodium intake should be limited to 2400 milligrams per day

The diet also advises consumption of the right number of calories to help maintain a healthy weight each day—usually around 2,500 calories for men and 1,800 calories for women. In order to establish the right number of daily calories for body type, lifestyle and medical history, consultation with a doctor or registered dietician is advised.

What can I eat on the TLC diet plan?

The best way to lower cholesterol is by adopting a balanced, varied diet, with an emphasis on greens, fish, legumes, whole grain and fruit. A vegetarian diet is especially good for lowering LDL levels, as some components found in plants are known to positively interact to improve cholesterol profiles. Daily exercise is an important part of the regime, with most experts suggesting 30 minutes of physical activity per day.

Studies have shown the TLC diet and other similar low-cholesterol diets to be at least as effective as statins in terms of reducing LDL levels. Dean Ornish from the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito found his self-titled Ornish Diet (which is particularly low in dairy and meat), combined with exercise and stress reduction, was able to lower LDL levels by nearly 40%, even reversing the build-up of artery plaque, something statins have not been proven to do.

What about supplements to TLC?

Being able to lower cholesterol and maintain a healthy, balanced diet is perfectly possible without taking supplements. However, some health store supplements may be worth trying. Niacin, plant sterols, and soluble fiber supplements are all known to lower cholesterol. Niacin should be used with care; while it can lower LDL levels by as much as 20%, it does carry a risk of side effects, especially if used in combination with a statin. A daily dose of two grams of plant sterols can reduce LDL by 15%.

Any other health benefits to the TLC diet?

Adopting the TLC diet has numerous health benefits, even for those without unusually high levels of cholesterol. As a heart-healthy diet, it can help maintain blood pressure and prevent heart disease.

A study in the Journal of Atherosclerosis and Thrombosis has indicated the diet can significantly lower insulin levels, a common predictor of type 2 diabetes. At any rate, the eating habits suggested by TLC are exactly the sort of patterns doctors would advise following to prevent diabetes. Although not primarily a weight loss program, the diet, combined with regular exercise, would rightly be considered by doctors as one of the best ways to lose weight.

Any risks?

There is no indication of any health risks associated with TLC diet. Its recommendations adhere to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, in terms of daily intake of fat, protein, carbs, salt, and key nutrients like fiber and calcium.

Will TLC help me lose weight?

TLC was designed to combat cholesterol levels, not obesity, although with its emphasis on fewer calories and fat it may prove to be one of the best diets to lose weight. Dieters for whom weight loss is the  primary concern should consider learning more about medical weight loss programs. Designed and managed by doctors, the best weight loss programs are based on scientific principles and tailor-made for each individual.

Medical professionals from The Center for Medical Weight Loss can help you figure out the best way to lose weight based on your metabolism, BMI, personal preferences, and medical history. They construct a unique diet and exercise program just for you, and also provide personal counseling to keep you on course and away from old eating habits. To find your nearest Center, type your zip code in to the box above. Special introductory offers are available for first time clients at select locations.

Read about other best diets:


  1. US News Health, Best Diets: TLC Diet,
  2. National Institutes of Health, NHLBI (National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute), Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes,