Friday, April 6, 2012

Rating the Fad Diets

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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