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The term dieting refers to restrictive eating or nutritional remedies for conditions such as iron-deficiency anemia, gastrointestinal diseases, pernicious anemia, diabetes, obesity, or failure to thrive. Someone can be on a heart-healthy diet that encourages the consumption of reasonable amounts of whole grains and fresh fruits, vegetables, beans, and fish, but limits foods high in saturated fat and sodium, or one can be on a weight loss diet. Examples of weight loss diets include: the Atkins New Diet Revolution, the Calories Don't Count Diet, the Protein Power Diet, the Carbohydrate Addict's Diet, and Weight Watchers. There is a lack of research, however, on whether these diets (except for Weight Watchers) are helpful, especially over the long term (defined as two to five years from the date of weight loss).

The recommended approach to dieting for weight loss is to eat in moderation so as to control calories (do not go below 1,200 per day) and to increase activity to lead to a gradual, safe weight loss. A recommended method is to decrease calories each day by 125 (the amount in a small soft drink or full cup of juice) and to increase energy expenditure by 125 (walking for about 30 minutes). That is, a 250-calorie deficit a day should result in about a one- to two-pound weight loss over the course of a month. The goal is to slowly change eating and exercise routines and maintain a lifelong healthy weight. Quicker weight losses are hard to maintain. Most people can lose weight on any diet, even on fad diets, but the trick is to keep the weight off.

So-called fad diets are diets that come and go in the marketplace and are typically deficient in various ways. For example, they may lack variety (e.g., the Grapefruit Diet, the Cabbage Soup Diet), be too low in calories and protein (the Rice Diet), and/or simply too bizarre (the Rotation Diet for food allergies). People should be especially wary of any "breakthrough" quick-fix diets. If a diet sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Delores Truesdell


Alford, B. B.; Blankenship, A. C.; and Haen, R. D. (1990). "The Effects of Variations in Carbohydrate, Protein, and Fat Content of the Diet upon Weight Loss, Blood Values, and Nutrient Intake of Adult Obese Women." Journal of the American Dietetic Association 90:534-540.

Golay, A., et al. (1996). "Similar Weight Loss with Low- or High-Carbohydrate Diets." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 63:174-176

Leeds, M. J. Nutrition for Healthy Living. WCB McGraw-Hill.

Ornish, D.; Scherwitz, L. W.; Billings, J. H.; et al. (1998). "Intensive Lifestyle Changes for Reversal of Coronary Heart Disease." Journal of the American Medical Association 280:2001-2007.

anemia: low level of red blood cells in the blood gastrointestinal: related to the stomach and intestines diabetes: inability to regulate level of sugar in the blood obesity: the condition of being overweight, according to established norms based on sex, age, and height failure to thrive: lack of normal developmental progress or maintenance of health diet: the total daily food intake, or the types of foods eaten saturated fat: a fat with the maximum possible number of hydrogens; more difficult to break down that unsaturated fats energy: technically, the ability to perform work; the content of a substance that allows it to be useful as a fuel allergy: immune system reaction against substances that are otherwise harmless

Internet Resource

Larsen, Joanne. "Fad Diets." Available from <>

nutrition: the maintenance of health through proper eating, or the study of same physiology: the group of biochemical and physical processes that combine to make a functioning organism, or the study of same internship: training program entrepreneur: founders of new businesses clinical: related to hospitals, clinics, and patient care diabetes: inability to regulate level of sugar in the blood cancer: uncontrolled cell growth

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