Fad Diets

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Fad Diets: Look Before You Leap
Food Insight, March 1, 2000
No,

says

Diane

Quagliani,

RD,

a

spokesperson

for

The

American

Dietetic

Association. "Fad diets are a short-term, quick-fix approach to weight loss that don't work over the long haul. These diets tend to over-promise results but don't deliver. Food choices are often monotonous, and caloric intake may be very restricted, so that once the novelty wears off, so does the motivation to continue."

Even the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has recognized the huge popularity of fad diets, and in February it sponsored the Great Nutrition Debate, a discussion panel that featured popular diet book authors as well as nutrition and weight loss researchers. While the panelists agreed that Americans are too fat, there was no consensus about the best way to lose weight and keep it off-although it led to interesting and sometimes heated debate. In the end, USDA indicated that it might be time for government researchers to evaluate the various diets to help sort fact from fiction.

There is a dire lack of scientific research to corroborate the theories expounded in the majority of diet books currently on the market. Most promise weight loss programs that are easy, allow favorite foods or foods traditionally limited in weight loss diets without limitations, and do not require a major shift in exercise habits. Often, adds Sachiko St. Jeor, PhD, RD, Director of the Nutrition Education and Research Program at the University of Nevada School of Medicine, "fad diet book authors take a scientific half-truth that is complex and use that as the basis for their arguments." Authors may simplify or expand upon biochemistry and physiology in an effort to help support their theories and provide a plethora of scientific jargon that people do not understand but that seems to make sense. And few, if any, offer solid scientific support for their

claims in the form of published research studies. Instead, most evidence is based on anecdotal findings, theories, and testimonials of short-term results.
Some of the most popular diets to hit the news wires these days are those that promote low carbohydrate and high protein intakes and promise significant weight loss. These diets are nothing more than low calorie diets in disguise, but with some potentially serious consequences. Following a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet will encourage the body to burn its own fat. Without carbohydrates, however, fat is not burned completely and substances called ketones are formed and released into the bloodstream. Abnormally high ketone levels in the body, or ketosis, may indeed make dieting easier, since they typically decrease appetite and cause nausea. However, ketosis also increases the levels of uric acid in the blood, which is a risk factor for gout and kidney disease in susceptible people. Additionally, notes Dr. St. Jeor, "following these diets can result in dehydration, diarrhea, weakness, headaches, dizziness, and bad breath, and over the long term, can also increase risk of atherosclerosis and osteoporosis." Here's a rundown on some of the more popular high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets that are making headlines.

Sugar Busters! By H. Leighton Steward, Sam S. Andrews, MD, Morrison C. Bethea, MD, and Luis A. Balart, MD
Premise/Theory:Sugar and certain carbohydrates (those with high glycemic indices) are toxic to the body causing blood sugar levels to rise and increasing the levels of insulin production, thereby prompting fat storage and weight gain. Supposedly, decreasing sugar intake can help people lose weight and decrease body fat, no matter what other foods are eaten. Dietary Recommendations:

* Eliminates refined and processed carbohydrates, especially sugar and white flour and all foods made from these ingredients. Also eliminates foods like potatoes, corn, white rice, beets, carrots, corn syrup, molasses, honey, soft drinks, and beer.

* Encourages...
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