Fad diets offer promises, promises and more promises. Even a Web search for weight loss bombards surfers with thousands of rapid weight loss programs. But the truth behind these trend diets depends on the source.
Some popular diets in the nutrition world have the potential for serious health risks.
Diets that overemphasize success should always be watched with a careful eye, or in this case, a stomach. Natural diet pills, no-carb diets, fat-substitute diets and many other popular diets which claim success tend to overlook basic nutrition as they wipe out necessary food groups.
The American Dietetic Association reported a list of ‘red flags’ to look out for when checking out a diet, such as claims that sound too good to be true and simplistic conclusions drawn from complex study. The ADA also reported to watch out for recommendations based on a single study, lists of “good” and “bad” food, and recommendations from studies that ignore differences among individuals and groups
In a Chicago Sun-Times survey, registered dieticians compared popular weight-loss programs, ranking Weight Watchers as the best and the Atkins diet the worst. Out of a possible score of 25, Weight Watchers scored an average of 20.4 and Atkins won a mere 7.9 points.
“Although one method of losing weight does not necessarily work for everyone, Weight Watchers has the highest success rate and provides the most support with the largest national network,” one dietician said.
Although not a scientific study, the survey ranked the following: Weight Watchers, Take Off Pounds Sensibly, Overeaters Anonymous, Jenny Craig, Optifast, Slim-Fast and Atkins.
The Atkins diet has been criticized by many leading nutrition experts for the various promises advocated by its creator. In addition, the National Institute of Health and the American Heart Association encourage a daily carbohydrate intake of around 300 grams.
With the promotion of a high protein and fat intake, experts warn Atkins followers of kidney overload and a risk in heart disease. Key nutrients such as fiber, Vitamin C, folic acid, and several minerals are also missed in the diet’s lack of grain, vegetable and fruit intake.
Dietary supplements, another popular forum for desperate slim hopefuls, have their share of problems as well. While medications require FDA approval before they are marketed, dietary supplements require no proof of their safety and effectiveness before hitting the shelves of local stores and appearing in TV ads. This is a scary thought when glancing at the number of individuals willing to take a chance on a pill in order to lose some pounds. With the recent curbing of Ephedra by the FDA, Americans witnessed the significant health threat a dietary supplement must pose before the FDA can ban it.
“Ephedra has killed more than 100 individuals and injured thousands of others,” said Bruce Silverglade, legal director of the Washington-based Center for Science in the Public Interest in The Philadelphia Inquirer. “The only problem is it took the FDA almost 10 years to ban the substance.”
TrimSpa diet pills, advocated by former and currently reinvigorated model Anna Nicole Smith, contain ephedrine and caffeine which may cause serious health effects such as chest pains, vomiting, or difficulty in swallowing and breathing.
Viewers would never guess this with Smith’s apparent joy and pride in her weight loss as she struts down a runaway carpet in her TV ad for TrimSpa.
The American Dietetic Association Web site finds registered local dieticians in your home area. Likewise, The Federal Trade Commission Web site provides information concerning deceptive weight-loss advertising claims.
Like so many seemingly complex questions, the answer to weight loss is simpler than it appears. The safest and most successful long-term approach is to exercise and eat smaller portions of a balanced diet.
Guidelines for a well-balanced diet can be found on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans Web site at www.usda.gov/cnpp.
Breanna Tannous can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.