Monday, Feb. 12, 2018

FAD DIETS

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Safety of some weight-loss plans questionable

A new year brings another chance to get back on track. Whether this means better time management, marking off an item on your bucket list, or losing a few pounds, most people entertain the idea of a new year’s resolution every year. Now that it’s February, many may have tried a new diet plan but have already quit and bought a fresh king cake from the grocery store instead.

Why are diet plans so difficult to stick to? You may want to consider the diet plan you’ve chosen.

Many diets followed in January are fad diets, which are diets that promise quick weight loss but don’t produce lasting results. The most popular fad diets of 2017-2018 include the Ketogenic diet, Whole30, the Alkaline Diet, Paleo, Atkins, the Blood Type Diet and Gluten-Free, to name a few. The problem with fad diets is the fact that they haven’t received enough research to be proven safe or effective. In fact, most of these diets are thought to be very unsafe, even if they are effective for quick weight loss.

The truth about rapid weight loss is that it’s not always what meets the eye. A loss of 10 pounds in a week is appealing and encouraging, but it is likely mostly water weight, especially if carbohydrates are restricted. In addition, these low-carbohydrate diets often replace carbohydrates with fat, more commonly saturated fat. Excess consumption of saturated fat can increase your risk for heart disease and stroke. Other fad diets may result in rapid weight loss due to a strict calorie restriction. This can result in health consequences and inadequate consumption of the nutrients your body needs.

If safety of these diets is questionable, why are they so popular? The appeal for a diet that promises quick results is much more attractive than the heavily researched dietary guidelines and “boring” diet patterns that are known to be safe and effective. Even more influential is the strong marketing that the creators of these diets have arranged to gather a fan base. They offer us simple solutions to our weight problems and a “one-size-fits-all” approach when in reality, weight management is very individualized with many other factors influencing the overall equation.

Not all diets are fad diets, and it may be difficult to determine if the diet you have chosen is one. Here are a few things to ask yourself if you are wondering whether diet falls under the “fad diet” category:

• Does this diet eliminate one or more of the basic food groups (vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, protein foods)?

• Does this diet tell me I’m never allowed to eat certain foods?

• Does this diet claim weight loss without needing to exercise?

• Does this diet try to sell certain pills, supplements, shakes or wraps as part of the weight-loss plan?

• Does the diet’s website provide testimonials as proof of effectiveness?

• Does this diet claim that there are certain foods that have special advantages for weight loss?

• Does the company/author present any research on the diet that is not sponsored by themselves/their company? Is there external review provided by other researchers on the data presented?

• Do the results of this diet sound too good to be true?

With the exception of the second to last question, if you have answered yes to any of these questions, the diet is likely a fad. Instead of following the $66 billion weight-loss industry for quick results, turn to the diets that have a strong research base and provide sustainable results. These diets include the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines, the DASH Diet, and the Mediterranean Diet. A general healthful diet can result in long-term weight management. For more information, contact a registered dietitian in the area.

Abigail McAlister is an assistant extension agent (general nutrition) for the LSU AgCenter. Her main focus is adult nutrition education and promotion in Caddo and Bossier parishes. She can be reached at apscallan@agcenter.lsu.edu.

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