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Monday, September 9, 2013

Rating the Fad Diets


With so many different diets available, how are we to know

what works and what is safe? The only way to be sure is to

discover the author's background and the research behind

the diet's methodology. Every good diet should give a

background about the author and his/her credentials and

experience in the fields of nutrition and biochemistry.

However, even a vast resume does not mean a credible and

safe diet. But it does suggest, at least, that the author has

some knowledge of nutrition. Providing research behind the

diet proves that the diet is not something the author

invented, so long as the research is not self-serving and

altered to fit a hypothesis.

Some diets may not need a great deal of tests and studies

behind them, simply because they are based on

fundamentals. For example, many women's magazines

have articles on dieting and weight loss, but they are

common sense suggestions that most people concerned

about weight should know already: "Eat smaller meals", "cut

down on sugar and fat", etc., are typical philosophies. More

structured diets should give some scientific reasons for its

suggested success, preferably case studies and research

performed on everyday test subjects, as well as athletes.

Since we have established the importance of eating a

balanced diet in accordance to selecting healthy foods and

obtaining RDA minimums, it is possible now to rate the

diets in accordance to those specific criteria. Begin with a

score of 200 and subtract 10 points from the total for each

statement below in which the diet concedes. An ideal diet

should maintain a score of 200, but a score of 160 or

greater is acceptable.

1. The diet does not include the food groups in adequate

amounts. Some fad diets eliminate one or more of the food

groups. Do not deduct 10 points if a food group's nutrients

(e.g., carbs, proteins, fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals) are

adequately substituted with that of another food group.

2. The diet does not provide at least 45% of its calories from

carbohydrate sources. In order to prevent ketosis, at least

150g of glucose/day is required. That's 33-50% of total

calorie intake on a 1200-calorie diet. Keep in mind that is

the minimum. For highly active individuals, that amount

should increase to 60% at times, i.e., immediately after


3. The carbohydrate content exceeds 20% concentrated

sugars. At least 80% of carbohydrate sources should be

complex, and preferably in the form of vegetables, seeds,

and legumes.

4. The protein content exceeds 30%. A very high protein

intake is unnecessary, it places additional strain on the

urinary system, and it is a poor source of energy. Thirty

percent is more than adequate, even for growing children

and teenagers. The only group that requires higher protein

intake are those who recently suffered a severe injury (e.g.,

leg amputation), infection, or surgery. However, these

individuals will be under the care of a physician with a

special high protein diet.

5. Protein content accounts for 15% or less of total calories.

Although unnecessary in large amounts, protein still has

many vital functions, including tissue repair and the

formation of enzymes.

6. Fats exceed 30% of total intake. Besides increasing the

risk of cardiovascular disease, high fat diets have not been

demonstrated to decrease weight better than other methods

of 'proper' eating.

7. Total fat consumption is less than 15% of total calories.

Fat in moderate amounts is essential for a healthy diet, and

such a diet provides taste to many foods. Fat intake below

15% for long periods, for most individuals, is unrealistic.

Fat intake that is too low can also be detrimental to children

and teenagers who require ample kcalories for continued


8. Total fat consumption is less than 25% essential fatty

acids, and saturated fat is more than 30% of total fat

consumption. Deduct 10 for each.

9. The diet does not suggest common foods, meaning

foods you should be able to obtain at any grocery store or


10. The foods for the diet are expensive or monotonous.

Some diets require the purchase of 'their' foods or

expensive 'organic' foods only obtained through health food

stores. Some foods taste so bad they are difficult to

tolerate repeatedly (e.g., seaweed). Deduct 10 for each.

11. The diet consists of an inflexible meal plan. The diet

does not allow for substitutions or deviations, requiring a

person to live under 'house arrest' with the same food

selections every day.

12. The diet provides less than 1200 kcalories per day.

Less than that and the body's basic functions may not be

getting the energy, vitamins and minerals needed to work

properly, and the dieter almost is certain to feel hungry all

the time. Diets below 1200 kcalories should be reserved for

those under the supervision of a dietitian or licensed


13. The diet requires the use of supplements. If the diet

provides adequate energy and it is well balanced,

supplements are unnecessary. 'Fat accelerators,' such as

ephedrine, may increase the rate of weight loss, but the diet

should be able to stand on its own merit. Some diet clinics

promote a vast array of herbal preparations and fat

accelerators, and this is where these clinics make their

money - not in their knowledge and ability as nutritionists.

14. The diet does not recommend a realistic weight goal.

Diets should not be promoting the body of a Greek god or a

supermodel. They should not be suggesting that a person

lose 100 pounds (even if 100 pounds overweight). Nor

should diets recommend weight loss below an ideal


15. The diet recommends or promotes more than 1-2

lbs/week weight loss. Do not expect to lose more than 1-2

pounds of fat a week - it is physically impossible unless

chronically obese, at which point 3 pounds may be

possible. If more than two pounds is lost per week, the

body change is due to a loss of water and/or muscle tissue.

Gimmicks that promise 10 pounds in 2 weeks are either

simply not true or else something other than fat is being

lost. Also keep in mind that the more fat a person wishes to

lose, and the less a person has, the more difficult and

slower it will be to lose additional fat.

16. The diet does not include an evaluation of food habits.

Dieting should be a slow process by which a person

changes normal eating habits. It should not include looking

for quick fixes and quick plans promising short cuts and

extreme changes - a person would never stay with these

programs and such diets do not work long-term. The

number of kcalories eaten, and the food selections and their

amounts, should be reevaluated on a regular basis...

perhaps once every 1-2 months to determine the program's


17. Regular exercise is not recommended as part of the

plan for proper weight loss. Weight loss occurs twice as

fast with exercise, and without exercise there is a greater

tendency to lose lean muscle tissue as well as fat. This is

not ideal.


Low Carbohydrate Diets: Ketosis occurs, and this presents

the same problems as fasting. Once glycogen stores are

spent (which happens quickly with athletes and those who

exercise regularly), glucose must be made from protein

sources, and there is greater wear on the kidneys as a

result. Even on a high protein diet, some protein will be

taken from body tissues in order to produce enough energy

for the nervous system and regular activity. The onset of

ketosis is an indication that this process has begun and it is

not a positive aspect, regardless of what pro-high-fat

authorities indicate.

Great weight loss on a low-carb diet is evident because of

the fact that carbs hold water in the muscles at a ratio of 1:3.

As carb intake decreases then so, too, does water retention.

Much water flushes as a result of lack of glycogen to hold

water molecules. Moreover, by increasing protein intake,

excess nitrogen flushes with even more water since the

kidneys use water to dilute the concentration of nitrogen.

Once leaving a low-carb diet and the muscles refill with

glycogen, fluid concentrations increase and the dieter

regains some of the weight.

Low calorie diets of 400-600 kcalories that consist primarily

of protein have the same problems as fasting and

low-carbohydrate diets: proteins are used for energy and

weight loss comes largely from water. Low-cal diets must

be supervised properly by a medical professional and only

as a last resort for those who cannot seem to lose weight by

other methods. However, even those individuals tend to

regain most of their weight back once they return to a

balanced diet.

Beverly Hills Diet - a diet consisting of grapefruit, eggs, rice,

and kelp; it is deficient in minerals and vitamins.

Cambridge Diet - a very low kcalorie (300-600 kcal/day);

protein/carb mixture with mineral imbalances; the dieter is

close to fasting.

Complete Scarsdale Diet - this diet is unbalanced

nutritionally; some days are calorically restricted; the dieter

alters portions of carbohydrate, protein, and fat; the diet

consists of low carbs (20-50 g/day), and high fat and

protein; the diet has a high meat (saturated fat and

cholesterol) content.

Dr. Atkin's Diet Revolution - this diet is unbalanced

nutritionally; some days are calorically restricted; the dieter

alters portions of carbohydrate, protein, and fat; carbs are

very low (20-50 g/day), whereas fat and protein are high;

there is high meat (saturated fat and cholesterol)


Dr. Linn's Last Chance Diet - this diet has a very low

kcalorie intake (300-600 kcal/day); it consists of a

protein/carb mixture with a mineral imbalance; the dieter is

close to fasting.

Dr. Reuben's The Save Your Life Diet - this is a calorically

dilute diet consisting of high fiber (30-35g/day); the diet is

low in fat and animal products; there is poor absorption of

minerals because of too much high fiber.

"Fake" Mayo Diet - this diet consists of grapefruits, eggs,

rice, and kelp; it is deficient in minerals and vitamins.

F-Plan Diet - this is a calorically dilute diet consisting of

high fiber (30-35g/day); it is low in fat and animal products;

there is poor absorption of minerals because of too much


LA Costa Spa Diet - this diet promotes weight loss of 1-1_

lbs/day; there are various plans of 800, 1000, and 1200

kcal/day composed of 25% protein, 30% fat (mostly

polyunsaturates), and 45% carbohydrate; the diets includes

the four food groups.

Medifast Diet - this diet is balanced nutritionally, but

provides only 900 kcal/day; use of liquid formulas makes

this diet monotonous and expensive.

Nutrimed Diet/Medifast Diet - this is a nutritionally balanced

diet, but it supplies only 900 kcal/day; the use of liquid

formulas makes this diet monotonous and expensive.

Optifast Diet - this diet is nutritionally balanced, but

supplies only 900 kcal/day; use of liquid formulas makes

this diet monotonous and expensive.

Pritikin Permanent Weight-Loss Diet - this is a nutritionally

unbalanced diet; some days are calorically restricted; the

dieter alters portions of carbohydrate, protein, and fat; the

diet consists of high protein (100 g/day); unless the foods

properly chosen, it may be low in vitamin B12.

Prudent Diet - this is a balanced, low kcalorie (2400

kcal/day) diet for men; it is low in cholesterol and saturated

fats; a maximum of 20-35% calories are derived from fat

with an emphasis on protein, carbohydrates, and salt; there

is ample consumption of fish and shellfish, and saturated

fats are substituted with polyunsaturated fats.

Quick Weight Loss Diet - this diet is unbalanced

nutritionally; some days are calorically restricted; the dieter

alters portions of carbohydrate, protein, and fat, although

there is low carbs (20-50 g/day), and high fat and protein;

there is high meat consumption (saturated fat and

cholesterol) with this diet.

San Francisco Diet - this diet begins at 500 kcal/day,

consisting of two meals per day of one fruit, one vegetable,

one slice of bread, and two meat exchanges; the second

week limits carbohydrates, with most food coming from the

meat group and with some eggs and cheese, and a few

vegetables; week three includes fruit; in week four there is

an increase in vegetables; week five the dieter add

fat-containing foods (e.g., nuts, avocados); week six

includes milk; week seven includes pastas and bread,

where the diet is maintained at about 1300 kcal/day; this

diet avoids the issue of saturated fats and cholesterol.

Slendernow Diet - this diet is unbalanced nutritionally;

some days are calorically restricted; the dieter alters

portions of carbohydrate, protein, and fat; the protein is

generally high (100 g/day); unless foods are properly

chosen, there may be a deficiency in vitamin B12.

Weight-Watchers Diet - this diet is balanced nutritionally, at

about 1000-1200 kcal; use of high nutrient-dense foods are

consumed; economic and palatable food makes it one of

the most successful diets with no real health risks.

Wine Diet - this diet is about 1200 kcal/day, containing 28

menus together with a glass of dry table wine at dinner;

besides the medicinal components of wine, it is believed

that individuals reduce portion sizes when wine is

consumed with a meal; the diet is low in cholesterol and

saturated fats; there is a focus on fish, poultry, and veal with

moderate amounts of red meat.

Yogurt Diet - this diet consists of two versions, being

900-1000 kcal/day, and 1200-1500 kcal/day; plain low-fat

yogurt is the main dairy dish, consumed at breakfast, lunch,

and as a bedtime snack; the diet is high in protein, and it is

low in cholesterol, saturated fat, and refined carbohydrates.

Diets that do not provide 100% of the U.S. RDA for 13

vitamins and minerals:


Beverly Hills

Carbohydrate Craver's Basic

Carbohydrate Craver's Dense

California (1200 kcal) California (2000 kcal)


I Love America

I Love New York

Pritikin (700 kcal) Pritikin (1200 kcal)

Richard Simmons



Brian D. Johnston is the Director of Education and President of the I.A.R.T. fitness certification institute. He has written over 12 books and is a contributor author to the Merck Medical Manual. An international lecturer, Mr. Johnston wears many hats in the fitness and health industries. You can visit his site at

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