Do Diets Work?

Do Diets Work?  If so which one is Right for You?
By Dr. Jai Tomlin
Chiropractic Physician
Clinical Nutritionist

In my 15 years of being a Clinical Nutritionist I have seen the many diets come into popularity. Atkins, Beverly Hills, Blood Type, Fit for Life, Grapefruit, Herbalife, Jenny Craig, Juice Fasts, Low Fat, Mayo Clinic, Pritikin, Scarsdale, Slim-Fast, South Beach, Sugar Busters, and many more! So, do they work?  If so which one is right for you?

There are many factors that you need to consider when choosing a diet that is right for you.  Here are a few: your body type, your blood type, your ethnic background, your lifestyle, your family, your physical and mental health, your particular tastes, etc.

You may be interested to learn that even when disciplined, dedicated people stick with a diet plan for a year or more, they are most likely to only lost about 5 percent of their body weight, far less than most dieters anticipate losing.  So for 200 pounds that equals 10 pounds in an entire year.  But the good news is that losing that 10 pounds can do wonders for heart health.

The Washington Post and Reuters report that researchers from the Tufts-New England Medical Center conducted the first scientific trial that compared four popular diet plans against each other to assess their individual effectiveness:  Atkins, Dean Ornish, Weight Watchers, and The Zone.  The study was federally funded.

Here are the surprising results:

Atkins: Although almost no carbohydrates are permitted, dieters can enjoy lots of high-fat foods, such as bacon and steak, on the Atkins diet.  In this study, 52 percent of the dieters stuck with it for the full year, losing on average 4 percent of their body weight decreasing their risk of heart disease by 12 percent.  Even though the diet encourages consumption of high-fat foods, dieter’s total cholesterol dropped by about 3 percent.  The ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol dropped 8 percent ant the ‘good’ HDL cholesterol rose 15 percent.

Dean Ornish:  Half of the dieters stayed with this super-strict low-fat, vegetarian diet for the year and lost on average, 6 percent of their body weight, the most of any plan.  But their risk heart disease decreased by only 7 percent, the least of any of the four plans.

Weight Watchers:  Similar to the U.S. dietary guidelines, Weight Watchers emphasizes eating low-fat foods.  Dieters attend group meetings for expert advice, weekly weight-ins, and moral support.  Fully 65 present stayed with the diet for the entire year, losing on average 5 percent of their body weight and decreasing their risk of heart disease by 15 percent, the most of all the diet plans.

The Zone: Following The zone diet requires that all food items be measured by their gylcemic index, which is a calculation of how much they raise bold sugar levels.  Small amounts of healthy fatty foods are allowed.  Sixty-five percent of the dieters continued on the diet for the full year, losing on average 5 percent of their body weight and decreasing their risk of heart disease by 11 percent.

They study shows that no single approach has a monopoly on weight loss.

The newest fads: Low carbos! Wow, this has certainly become all the rave!  This is in response to our over consumption of carbohydrates in this country.  Even 7-11’s are now advertising low carbo foods!  But don’t avoid the good carbohydrates, like vegetables.   Also remember lots of low carbo foods are still high in sugar, which is really not any better for you.  Eating sugar can raise your cholesterol just as much as eating saturated fats do.   Also, any diet that limits carbohydrates causes the body to rely on fat or muscle for energy.  When our body breaks down stored fat to supply energy, a by-product called ketones are formed.  Ketones suppress appetite, but they also cause fatigue, nausea, and a potentially dangerous fluid loss.  Anyone with diabetes, heart, or kidney problems should not follow a follow an extremely high protein diet.   Please remember that eating unlimited amount of fat, especially saturated fat found in meat products, can lead to increased risk of heart disease.  Also be aware that restricting carbohydrates means eating a low-fiber diet, which can cause constipation and colon cancer

One of the newest diets is; The South Beach Diet.  This emphasizes normal portions of lean proteins such as fish and chicken, unlimited amounts of low gylcemic-index vegetables; ample amounts of healthy fats such as olive and canola oil, nuts and avocados; and small portions of healthy carbohydrates, found in fruit and less-processed grain. Wow! This is what I tell most of my patients!  I should have written a book and called it the Newport Beach Diet!

The bottom line:  Each person is different and no one program works for everyone.  You need to take into account all of the different factors that make you a unique individual.

Most all diets work if you use them. The best approach is to find a program that you can live with forever. Yo-yoing up and down with dieting and weight will suppress your metabolism and lead to chronic obesity. Remember to eat good wholesome foods, like we have at the Oceana Co-op!  And, to find out what is best for you, consult with a nutritionist and create a personalized wellness program that will work for the duration of your life.

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