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In the News

Are Fad Diets Effective?

By Dr. Victor Gong, Medical Director of 75th St. & 126th St. Medical, Ocean Pines Medical & Doctors Weight Control & Wellness centers, Ocean City, MD.

According to health and nutrition experts, fad diets generally promote quick weight loss, but can pose serious health threats. Still, Americans spend millions of dollars each year on fad diet books and programs.

How can fad diets be distinguished from healthy diets? Fad diets usually have the following similarities:

  • They claim a large weight loss in a short period of time.
  • They focus on one or more foods or food groups and eliminate other major food groups.
  • They promise results with minimal effort.

Fad diets lack scientific support. They can be seriously deficit in certain nutrients, vitamins and minerals essential to good health. They are not considered long-term solutions to weight control because they do not teach sound nutritional habits. As a result, people following fad diets generally regain the weight once they revert to their old eating patterns.

One of the more popular types of fad diets is the low carbohydrate diet. When carbohydrate intake is drastically reduced, the body breaks down fat stores into carbon fragments. Accumulation of these carbon fragments (ketones) cause ketosis. Ketosis decreases appetite. However, it also causes dehydration, calcium depletion, weakness, nausea and overall apathy. Ketosis has also been linked to serious kidney problems in individuals prone to kidney disease. Protein sparing/modified fat diets also work by putting the body in a state of ketosis.

Liquid formula diets are another type of popular fad diet. Not only do these diets deplete your body's supply of essential nutrients, they can also cause severe constipation or diarrhea.

Some of the popular "one or more food" diets include the yogurt diet, the banana diet and the ice cream diet. Weight loss often occurs because of the limited number of foods allowed. However, these diets do not provide essential nutrients. Advocates of the grapefruit diet claim grapefruit eaten before a meal "burns fat' resulting in weight loss. However, there is no scientific evidence to support this theory. The Adkins Diet, the Sugar Busters diet, and the Zone diet are more recent popular ones as well.

Successful long-term weight loss cannot be accomplished by following fad diets. Losing weight and keeping it off is a lifetime commitment. Successful weight loss programs combine sound nutritional practices, reasonable calorie reduction, moderate increases in physical activity and eating habits that can be followed for a lifetime.

Where do you find a safe and effective way to lose weight and keep it off? There are many options, including dietary counseling, weight loss centers, physician-directed programs, and numerous unsubstantiated products and services. So be careful and wise in what you chose. most weight control centers that are physician supervised require you to go through a variety of tests to make sure that you qualify for the medications.

First of all: Find a program that is physician-supervised. Find out if there is nutritional, exercise, and behavioral modifying counseling available. How do they monitor your progress? Do they do body measurements or a body fat analysis periodically. Check to see if the physician is associated with the American Society of Bariatric Physicians. Is there a maintenance program to keep the weight off and under control once you finish the program. There are many new medical advances in the field of obesity, including a new generation of drugs to come. Obesity experts consider medications, only one tool in the battle of the bulge.

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