MARCH 10, 2006 | From Atkins to Sugar Busters, fad diets have become a part of American culture. But do they really provide the long-term weight loss that so many people seek?
Probably not, was the answer given by Betsy Day of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Weight Control Clinic at a recent seminar on the fad diet craze. Day is program director of the clinic.
“You should be very suspicious of any diet that eliminates an entire food group or offers a quick fix,” Day said. Among those diets is the popular Atkins Diet that eliminates almost all intake of carbohydrates. In the absence of carbohydrates, Day said, the body searches for other sources of glucose for energy, relying heavily on lean muscle tissue in the organs and muscles.
The large quantity of protein that the Atkins Diet promotes also produces an increase in uric acid that can lead to gout, gall stones and kidney problems.
Another popular diet, Sugar Busters, is based on the premise that dieters can eat an unlimited amount of calories if they decrease their sugar intake. While this diet promotes eating whole grains and fresh fruit instead of sugary treats, it forbids such foods as pineapple, raisins and carrots.” Totally eliminating foods — unless it’s fast food — immediately makes a diet suspect,” Day said. She added that “calories do matter” and unlimited calorie intake is an unhealthy practice.
If the Atkins Diet, Sugar Busters and other fad diets don’t promote healthy weight loss solutions, what is the answer for people struggling with their weight? “Dieters basically need to use good, old-fashioned moderation and common sense,” Day said.
She recommends eating a variety of foods focusing on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. Five fruits and vegetables each day are recommended.
A total of 60 percent of calories should come from carbohydrates, 10 percent from proteins and 30 percent from fat. Portion size should also be limited. For example, one serving size of protein is considered two to three ounces, while one serving of pasta is only one-half cup. “This is much less than you would be served in a restaurant,” she said.
Day also emphasized the importance of exercise for weight loss and maintenance. To lose weight, a minimum of 50-60 minutes of exercise most days of the week is recommended. That number is 40-50 minutes for weight maintenance. “Studies show that people who have lost more than 30 pounds and have kept it off for more than a year have one thing in common — they exercise,” Day said.
She encouraged the group to find an exercise regimen they enjoy and to fit more walking into their day by taking the stairs, parking farther from the door and wearing a pedometer to count their steps, with a goal of 10,000 steps each day.
Links on this page
UAMS Weight Control Clinic: http://weight.uams.edu