Sunday, January 3, 2010

Fad Diets Debunked

It's that time of year when the weight-loss products hit the market in full force. Every year brings an amazing new diet that works like none usual, it's just too good to be true. Here is the low-down on one of the latest proclamations.

The 4 Day Diet claims to push your body to lose more weight because it varies the types and amounts of foods eaten as well as the kinds of exercise. Continually readjusting to new foods and exercises prevents the body from getting acclimated to any specific eating or exercise plan, which in turn will help to burn more calories and prevent plateaus.

A strength is the inclusion of both aerobic and strength-training exercise. Duh... Physical activity burns calories and possibly preserves lean muscle mass during weight loss. However, there is no scientific support for the theory that varying calorie intake and exercise style will result in weight loss more than steady calorie reduction and increasing physical activity. In fact, according to the National Weight Control Registry, consistent eating and fitness behaviors are characteristic of people who successfully lose weight and keep it off. The author also frequently refers to the Glycemic Index when discussing the types of foods recommended in the diet, but again, there is no evidence a G.I. diet causes significant weight loss or helps control appetite. The Glycemic Index is used to control blood sugar for people with various types of Reactive Hypoglycemia and Type II diabetes. Though many healthful foods are recommended, readers are at risk for consuming inadequate amounts of some nutrients. For example, most of the diet plan does not meet the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans daily recommendations for whole grains or low-fat or nonfat dairy. Finally, none of the meal plans, recipes or snacks includes any calorie or nutrient information. Long-term weight loss (and good health) generally includes learning what you are putting in your body. Although there are many encouraging, healthful components to this diet, on some days it is too low in calories and skimps on key nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D. Following the modules may also prove to be quite cumbersome for some readers, while others may not respond well to the diet plan’s restrictive inflexibility.

Could this diet help someone lose weight? Yes, just as with any diet that reduces calories and increases physical activity. But at the very least, readers who want to try this diet should adjust it to include adequate amounts of whole grains and low-fat or nonfat dairy each day and meet with a registered dietitian to meet their daily nutrient needs.

~ Ian K. Smith, MD

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