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.

9 responses

  1. Hey,

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  2. Hey Doc,
    What about those people who are fat because of their genes? Will dieting help?

    Doctor2008 says: If there’s a family history of obesity, cutting down the calories from any diet-plan will help but this has got to be supplemented by exercise. And we’re talking of at least 3-4 hours of moderate activity a day. Scientists have proven this with the Amish community in Pennsylvania,USA who practise 19th century farming methods till today.
    If you’re obese due to your genes, then you’ll have to work doubly harder!

  3. I think the Mediterranean Diet is a great alternative to those fads mentioned in your post. It is hard for young girls to understand the importance of good health with Beyonce and others tout these nonsense diets.

    Doctor2008 says: Celebrities need to look beyond the dollar and realise that they are role models that have a major influence on the young. Too bad the dollar often rules! Can’t agree with you more..

  4. I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more articles from you in the future.

    – Jack

  5. Hi … I stumbled on this website by mistake. I was looking in Yahoo for PDF software that I had already purchased when I found your site, I have to say your site is really informative, I just love the theme, its amazing!. I don’t have the time at the moment to fully read your site but I bookmarked it and also will sign up for your RSS feed. I’ll back around in a day or two. thanks for a awesome site.

  6. I find it a pleasure to stop by here and find you active. Glad to study your most recent posts.

  7. Is there any express diet that you may recommend for someone that’s 220 and 6’4? I’ve a hard time losing weight as well .
    Doctor2008: Don’t know of any thats quick,safe and lasting. Sorry.

  8. male extra review | Reply

    This is precisely what I expected to find out after reading the title . Thanks for enlightening article.

  9. I had a friend growing up who’s Mom was on weight watchers for 20 years and I don’t think she ever lost a single pound! Wine can add up to more than you think. Sneaks up on you.

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