Diets that probably wont work

Weight reduction depends on reducing the intake of metabolic fuels but ensuring that the intake of nutrients is adequate to meet requirements. Equally important is the problem of ensuring that the weight that has been lost is not replaced — in other words, eating patterns must be changed after weight has been lost, to allow for maintenance of a body weight with a well-balanced diet.

There is a bewildering array of different diet regimes on offer to help the overweight and obese to lose weight. Some of these are based on sound nutritional principles and provide about half the person's energy requirement, together with adequate amounts of protein, vitamins and minerals. They permit a sustained weight loss of about 1— 1.5 kg/week.

Other 'diets' are neither scientifically formulated nor based on sound nutritional principles, and indeed frequently depend on pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo to attempt to give them some validity. They frequently make exaggerated claims for the amount of weight that can be lost, and rarely provide a balanced diet. Publication of testimonials from 'satisfied clients' cannot be considered to be evidence of efficacy, and publication in a book that is a best-seller, or in a magazine with wide circulation, cannot correct the underlying flaws in many of these 'diets'.

Some of the more outlandish diet regimes depend on such nonsensical principles as eating protein and carbohydrates at different meals (so-called food combining) — ignoring the fact that such 'carbohydrate' foods as bread and potatoes provide a significant amount of protein as well (see Figure 9.3). Others depend on a very limited range of foods. The most extreme have allowed the client to eat bananas, grapefruit or peanuts (or some other food) in unlimited amounts, but little else. Other diet regimes ascribe almost magical properties to certain fruits (e.g. mangoes and pineapples), again with a very limited range of other foods allowed.

The idea is that if someone is permitted to eat as much they wish of only a very limited range of foods, even desirable and much liked foods, they will end up eating very little, because even a favourite food soon palls if it is all that is permitted. In practice, these 'diets' do neither good nor harm. People get so bored that they give up before there can be any significant effect on body weight, or any adverse effects of a very unbalanced diet. This is all to the good — if people did stick to such diets for any length of time they might well encounter problems of protein, vitamin and mineral deficiency.

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