“All excess calories are stored as body fat whether they come from fruit or fudge”
–What To Eat by Marion Nestle
Diets come and go, all promising revolutionary changes, even though they really don’t work. A recent Gallop poll showed than 52% of the adult population in the US is on a diet, fueling a $35 billion industry, yet less than 5% of people can actually keep the weight off. In 2003,when the low-carbohydrate Atkins diet was all the rage, research had found that obese men and women , after 6 months on a low-carb diet lost 13 pounds on average compared to a 4 ½ pound loss on a low-fat diet. But new research shows that eventually all that weight comes back on, and even more than pre-dieting. If you’re looking for a quick fix to lose some weight this spring, recognize that fad diets are just that, often eliminating important macronutrients, hyped by the media, and often ignore basic exercise physiology. “People have been trying to figure out if it’s the carbs or is it the fat, when really it’s the calories, says Dr. Lona Sandon, an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. “It doesn’t matter where the calories are coming from – carbs, protein, or fat-it’s the calorie balance. We’re trying to get people away from the idea that it’s a single food group or a single nutrient that’s causing the weight gain”
Melting the Myths: Fad Diets
If a diet promises quick weight loss, has limited food selections, is promoted as a cure-all, and recommends expensive foods or supplements, says Laura Kruskall, Ph.D., R.D., and Director of Nutrition Sciences at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, you can be sure it’s a fad diet. Typically heavy handed on its’ use of testimonials, or not recommending permanent lifestyle changes are other red flags of a fad diet. Diets such as Scarsdale, Fat Flush, Carb Addicts, Eat for your Blood Type, Food Combining, Suzanne Sommers, Zone, Protein Power, Medifast , Slimfast and Sugar Busters all promise quick initial weight loss and do deliver, at first, because they all are low calorie diets. But do they last? If you are losing more than 2 pounds a week, it is more likely the result of fluid and lean body mass loss. Aiming for ½ to 1 pound a week loss is more realistic. Watching your calories and regular exercise is also the key. We gain weight because the body’s furnace is not burning quite enough fuel to keep pace with how much more we are eating. If you’re repeatedly gaining and regaining the same 10 or 20 or 30 pounds year after year, you know that fad diets won’t help you in the long run. Acknowledgement of the need for lifelong changes, being flexible in your food choices, along with the advice of a registered dietician, Dr. Kruskall says, is your key to success.
Low carb, high carb or all protein?
It’s a myth that carbohydrates are bad for you. A new study published in The Annals of Internal Medicine March 2010 showed that obese people who followed a low fat diet were more likely to keep the weight off after three years than those following a low carb diet. Although they lost more weight in the first year, they regained more during the next two years. The lead author of the study, Marianne Vetter, medical director of the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders, at the University of Pennsylvania, said that it’s really hard to sustain a low carb diet. Carbohydrates provide valuable nutrients, dietary fiber and volume and should generally make up the highest percentage of macronutrients calories when you’re trying to lose, or gain weight. The thrill of the initial weight loss on a low carbohydrate diet is due to several factors: you’re taking in fewer calories as well as losing fat free mass, and losing valuable glycogen stores, which also flushes out valuable water. Almonds, low-fat yogurt, blueberries, strawberries, oranges, red and green peppers, whole grain bread, tomato juice, hummus, lentils, soybeans and oatmeal ; the list is long and colorful, and are all examples of carbohydrates, all providing the body’s preferred energy source. Atkins may work well for some, but the research supports the view that low carb diets, whether extreme or moderate, don’t help you lose weight, says Dr. Frank Sacks, of the Harvard School of Public Health. (Those with metabolic syndrome, or diabetes should always consult with their physician) Healthy eating following a low calorie low fat diet rich in fruits, vegetables, beans, or fish will also protect you against disease. A study published in the journal Molecular Neurdegeneration tested the effects of several diets and were surprised to find that eating too much protein contributes to plaque buildup that may make you more vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease. Mice fed a high protein/low carbohydrate diet (60% protein/30% carbohydrate) were 5% lower in weight than brains from all other mice, posing the question whether particular diets, if eaten at particular ages, might affect the susceptibility to Alzheimer’s disease.
Instead of stress, food cues, moods, habits, obsessions, advertising, and social expectations; let common sense and true hunger be your guide.
For more information, look at these health resource Web sites: