Fad Diets - Fact or Fiction?
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Fad Diets—Fact or Fiction

by Janna Gordon, RPh, MBA
July 10, 2009

brought to you by Bellevue Pharmacy, a ProjectAWARE sponsor

How many people suddenly realize that the wedding, class reunion, or other special event is just around the corner and want to make a drastic change in their appearance by losing weight? Some dieters are obsessed with the perfect number, either a size of clothing or a place on the scale. Almost every person will admit to being on at least one diet, and unfortunately, most will admit to multiple diets. This “yo-yo” dieting is a trend that lends to the overall opinion by health experts and dieters themselves that diets, especially fad diets simply do not work.

Most have probably heard of the Cabbage Soup Diet or the Grapefruit Diet or know someone determined to lose weight on the latest diet book craze, such as the South Beach Diet. Fad diets are usually associated with a quick fix, rather than a lifetime change in eating habits. Unfortunately, fad diet claims are often too good to be true, and while some people may actually have the wherewithal to stick to the restrictions and lose weight, many regain the weight plus add on more pounds. Focusing on or eliminating certain foods from daily intake can set a dieter up for nutritional deficiencies if the diet is followed for extended periods of time.

An extensive review of scientific literature was performed by the United States Department of Agriculture to evaluate success of fad diets. They found the key ingredient to weight loss is calorie restriction. Eating 1400-1500 calories per day resulted in weight loss, with or without exercise and regardless of the weight loss diet. This number of calories induces weight loss because more calories are burned than consumed.

Eating a balanced diet of “good” carbohydrates, protein, and fat will set up healthy eating habits that will help maintain a healthy weight and extend benefits beyond the restrictions of the diet. Good carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains should total 5 to 7 servings per day and when looking at a plate should take up to two-thirds of the space on the plate. Space for protein and fats should be maintained at a minimum.

Maintaining portion control is also a mainstay of good eating habits. Serving size is required on every food purchased and will define calories per serving. Examples of common food servings include: 1 slice of whole-grain bread, 1⁄2 cup of cooked pasta, 1⁄2 cup cooked vegetable, 1⁄2 cup of fruit, and 1 chicken breast. For those who don’t like to measure, relating serving sizes to familiar objects will help some people manage serving sizes. For example, a serving of raw vegetables is roughly the size of a fist, a serving of pasta is about the size of a scoop of ice cream, a serving of grilled fish is like the size of a checkbook.

Other food management suggestions include using smaller plates and serving from the kitchen onto the plate rather than serving family style from the table, both suggestions decrease second servings. Put leftovers away quickly, in portion controlled servings. Never eat out of the bag or carton. When eating out, ask for half portions, share an entrée or dessert, or take 1⁄2 home for a later meal. Buffets are challenging so try to plan your portions by viewing the buffet prior to filling your plate.

Weight Watchers Points system for all foods, similar to counting calories. Total daily points allotted, decrease as you lose weight. • Pay as you go, with no upfront expense
• Flexible and can accommodate special dietary needs
• Encourages eating from all food groups
• Group meetings
Diet does not restrict any food (3 cookies may be equivalent to whole grain sandwich, although cookies would typically be less nutritious than the sandwich)
The Zone Carbohydrate restriction; permits fruits but eliminates almost all grains. Considered a decent diet if at or near goal weight Very restrictive diet that may be hard to stay on long term
South Beach Diet Similar to Atkins Diet, but less emphasis on meat. Limits fruits (phase 1), legumes, and vegetables. • Low glycemic index diet
• Promotes heart healthy fats
• Very restrictive diet that may be hard to stay on long term
• Restricts some food groups
Prepackaged Meals - Jenny Craig and NutriSystem, Seattle Sutton Almost all food consumed is prepared and pre-packaged and must be purchased to follow the diet. • Convenient, prepackaged meals
• Calorie controlled to ensure weight loss
• Transition to regular eating/cooking may be difficult
• Program expense of meal replacement
LA Weight Loss Supplements, bars and snacks, plus weekly food. • Center based program
• Personal counseling
• Diet and exercise recommendations and motivation
• Program Emphasizes safe, healthy weight loss and lifelong weight management
Expensive program with registration fee, plus weekly food costs
eDiets Online site, with a wide variety of diet plans to choose from. • Peer groups, mentors, and registered dietitians
• 21 diet plans, with flexibility for special dietary needs
• Online resources for counseling, chat rooms, and information.
• Fresh rather than frozen food
• Busy looking website
• A lot of distracting links and ads on site
• Email spam
• Extra costs for program add-ons
• Prepared foods are expensive
Crazy Fads, i.e. Grapefruit Diet, Cabbage Soup Diet, Diet that focuses on only one food group. Appear to offer a quick fix • Nutritionally deficient if able to be followed for extended periods of time
• No transition for normal eating
Take Shape For Life Protein sparing, modified fast (5 & 1 plan; 5 meal replacements and one lean and green meal per day) • Very low calorie diet
• Rapid weight loss, averaging 3 to 5 lbs per week
• Clinically tested and proven to be safe and effective for weight loss
• Weekly support calls including – Nurses Support Call; Stay in Shape Maintenance Call, and Doctors Support Call
• Program expense of meal replacement and food for lean and green meals
• Places dieters in a mild state of ketosis

ConsumerSearch.com reports that the following diet tips are important for long term success of any diet plan:

• An eating plan that is flexible and sustainable
• Regular physical activity
• Counseling and guidance

For dieters with 20lbs or less to lose, Weight Watchers is flexible and encourages eating from all food groups, provides in-person group support, and is reasonably priced, with pay as you go fees. Once you reach your goal and stay there for 6 weeks, you continue as a lifetime member and maintenance support is free.

Take Shape For Life provides a rapid results through a modified fast for patients who have 20 or more pounds to loose. Bellevue Pharmacy supports the Take Shape for Life program that has been shown to be effective through several clinical studies. For more information on Take Shape for Life please call 1-800-728-0288 and ask to speak with a consultant pharmacist or click on the following link: http://www.bellevuerx.com/weightmanagement.aspx.
Online users can enroll and order meal replacements to be delivered directly to their homes.


Popular Diets Versus Dietary Guidelines. An American Cancer Institute Review. www.thedietchannel.com/faddiets.htm

Quick-Weight-Loss or Fad Diets. AHA Recommendation. www.americanheart.org

Evidence-Based Evaluation of Popular Weight Loss Diets 2004, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University.

Weight Loss Programs. www.consumersearch.com/www/health_and_fitness/weight-loss-programs/review.html



For questions and further information, contact Bellevue Pharmacy.


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