Daily Archives: September 15th, 2008

Popular Diets a Health Threat – or Not?

Popular slimming programmes using special diets were recently praised by researchers to be effective and ‘carried no health threats’. This was reported in a recent issue of Nutrition Journal which showed that people not only lost weight  but also received adequate nutrients.

Four commercial diet-plans were studied – Slim Fast, Atkins, WeightWatchers and Rosemary Conley’s Eat Yourself Slim diet.They praised the “effectiveness and nutritional adequacy in weight management for the general public.” Take a look at the results:

Average weight loss after eight weeks

Atkins: High protein, low carbohydrate: 11.4lb (5.17kg)
WeightWatchers: A points system to count calories: 10.36lb (4.7kg)
Rosemary Conley: Low fat, low sugar: 8.8lb (4kg)
Slim Fast: Low-fat shakes replacing b’fast and lunch: 8.1lb (3.67kg)
Initially, the weight-loss appears impressive but, on a closer look, a few things raise concern:

Fad Diet - Beyonce Knowles created a craze for maple syrup which she took to reduce 22 lbs for "Showgirls"

  1. The study was over 8 weeks only. Can these diets be maintained long-term? Its known that once off the diet, weight-gain  is the norm.
  2. Concern has been raised on the long-term unwanted effects of these diets, esp Atkins, South Beach, which promote a high-protein,low carb diet that causes acidicity leading to osteoporosis and kidney failure in susceptible individuals. Read more here.
  3. There is a risk of shortage of certain nutrients if these diets are for long-term. For instance, Atkins have been known to cause a shortage of iron, niacin and fibre, due to the lesser  intake of cereals, flour and fibre-rich foods. Most diets do not recommend enough fruits and vegetables.
So why are these fad diets popular anyway?
  • Role models like Beyonce create a band of star-struck followers who are prepared to die to diet!
  • These diets tell people in black-and-white simple instructions what to do; and many can identify with that.
  • The promoters only highlight the positive studies and conveniently downplay the bad news.
Finally, if you want to be on a healthy diet, then I would suggest trying the Mediterranean diet, which comprises mainly of vegetables, whole grains, fish, legumes, fruit, and, for those inclined, moderate red wine. The main cooking fat is olive oil. A recent study showed lower incidence of heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s in those on a strict diet of this type. See “Accolades for Mediterranean Diet”.
Added 17 Sep 2008:  Lately, there’s a new trend towards eating : Instead of Eating to Diet, They’re Eating to Enjoy.

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