Stores are swapping the shelves full of cookie-making supplies with displays for weight-loss products. It reflects our state of mind…regretting the holiday indulgences, we want to quickly get back on the right track for the new year.
The lure of fad dieting is particularly strong as we turn the first page of our new calendars. However, the American Academy of Family Physicians warns these diets typically don't result in long-term weight loss and they are usually not very healthy. Sometimes, certain elements of the diets can be beneficial---for example, eating less processed food, a hallmark of the popular Paleo or “Caveman” diet is supported by most health professionals. Another characteristic of the diet---eating more meat---is not.
David Ludwig of Boston Children's Hospital had overweight adults, try three different diets for three weeks: Low-fat, Low-glycemic, which emphasizes lean protein, minimally processed carbs and “good” fats like olive oil and nuts and Low-carb. The study found that while people on the low-carb plan lost the most weight, they also had raised levels of inflammation markers and stress hormones which are both linked to long-term heart risk and mortality. The more moderate low-glycemic diet seemed to be the best for weight loss without the negative health effects.
James Hill, who tracks dieters who have kept off 30 or more pounds for at least a year, found that what these dieters have in common is watching their total calories, eating breakfast and getting 60 to 90 minutes of exercise a day. Not very flashy and not a quick fix, but it is a proven one.
Brooke Hildebrand Clubbs is the Director of Health Communication at Southeast Missouri State University.
Diet Comparison Challenges Conventional Wisdom on Calories. (2012). Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, 30(7), 6.
Should You Eat Like a Caveman? The latest nutrition fad goes back to the Stone Age. Is the "Paleo diet" a good idea?. (2015). Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, 33(5), 4-5.
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