HEALTH MATTERS: Fad diets: Slim on good nutrition

December 2004 
Volume 34  Number 12
Pages 22 - 23
  PDF Version Available!


  • “Get thin quick” schemes

  • How you can help

  • Is your patient overweight?

  • How to spot a fad diet


    AMERICANS ARE eating more than ever—and it shows. (See Is Your Patient Overweight ?) To shed pounds, many overweight people turn to fad diets designed to help them lose a lot of weight fast. Do they work? And more important, are they safe and nutritionally sound? For answers, let's evaluate some popular fad diets so you can assess the risks and help patients find healthier ways to lose weight. (See How to Spot a Fad Diet .)

    “Get thin quick” schemes

    Promoters of fad diets promise dieters that they can drop weight quickly and easily, but their claims are rarely supported by respectable research. You may need to warn dieters to be suspicious of diets that sound too good to be true. Here's the skinny on some of the most popular fad diets, including why they may be unsafe.

    * High-protein, low-carbohydrate diets , such as the Atkins diet, are popular and controversial. These diets are extremely high in fat and offer very limited food choices because entire food groups, such as fruits and vegetables, may be eliminated. How they work: With these diets, ketosis is the key to losing weight—but not to healthy nutrition. When the body is starved of carbohydrates, it burns its fat stores for fuel instead of burning glucose. And the by-product of fat breakdown is ketones. When excessive ketones are produced, the kidneys have to work harder to filter them. The body goes into starvation mode and metabolism slows down. Then carbohydrates are burned more slowly, and stored carbohydrates that aren't burned for fuel are converted to fat.Limiting carbohydrates means fewer calories are consumed, which leads to weight loss. Eating lots of protein, which tends to be high in fat, makes people feel full so they ...

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