April 20, 2003
Great Diet Debate
by Phil Kaplan
amazing how many people still call, e-mail, or visit my offices
asking for a diet. I understand what they mean. They really
mean they want a supportive eating program, but the diet mentality
that has swept over our population is clearly one of the greatest
causes of escalating obesity.
I've been in the business
of helping people reshape their bodies for over 20 years and
continue to amass evidence that adherence to a diet, any diet,
without a concern for exercise is going to fail the great
majority of people seeking physical excellence.
are some issues that should be recognized by anyone considering
Food is fuel as well as the
raw material from which we build new cells.
Metabolism is the speed with
which your body burns through food.
If you do not take in ample
calories to sustain basal metabolic needs you run the
risk of feeding off of muscle tissue.
Rapid weight loss beyond two
pounds per week is certain to include a loss of water
If weight is lost via calorie
deprivation and any portion of that weight is muscle,
metabolism slows leading to a greater weight loss challenge.
Eating has a thermic or "calorie-burning"
effect and some foods will burn more calories in the act
of digestion making any diet that limits its recommendation
to caloric intake a flawed program.
The body treats nutrients
very differently if it is asked to adapt to regular exercise.
The addition of lean body
mass (muscle mass) increases both exercise and resting
metabolic activity making the body far more efficient
at burning through food.
Those simple facts
should indisputably indicate that the path to long term fat
loss will result, not from cutting calories, but from a concern
for the Synergy I address every week on my radio show, in
every one of my seminars, and in every one of my books and
programs. By Synergy I'm referring to the combination of the
Right Nutrition (which means eating, not starving), Moderate
Aerobic Exercise, and a Concern For Muscle.
There have been two
recent research abstracts published in the respected Journal
of the American Medical Association which illustrate precisely
how confused and uncertain the medical community is when it
comes to weight loss via changes in nutrition.
first one compared the commercial Weight Watchers program
to a self-help dietary program over a course of two years
(1). Both the commercial program and the self-help program
approached weight loss with a calorie-cutting approach. The
conclusion of the study was that Weight Watchers proved more
successful than self-help dieting. If we relied on that conclusion,
we'd be led to believe that Weight Watchers is effective,
but let's look a little deeper into the study. What is the
goal of an obese person embarking upon a weight loss program?
Simple. Weight loss. But is the goal to lose weight and gain
it back? Not likely. The goal is long term healthful permanent
gratifying weight loss. In this study, 25% of participants
failed to complete the two years. The dropout results were
not included in the final calculations which in itself skews
the study as a measure of results. Of the remaining 75%, those
in the self help group regained any weight lost. In the Weight
Watchers group the mean weight loss at the end of two years
was just over 6 pounds. So isn't that good? Well, not if you
consider that at the one-year mark the average weight loss
among the Weight Watchers group was almost 10 pounds. That
means the study indicated that weight lost was regained in
both groups. The participants in the study were overweight
or obese. Would a six pound weight loss over 2-years prove
gratifying to those who make up the obese population? I think
not. There was no measure of body composition which leads
to a pretty well founded suspicion the weight lost was a combination
of water, fat, and muscle, which can prove to lead to greater
weight loss challenges in the future. Still, taken out of
context, that study supposedly supports the efficacy of commercial
weight loss programs.
up with this low-carb thing?
The second abstract
reviewed research conducted since 1996 to attempt to draw
some conclusions related to the popular but controversial
low-carb diets (2). What was the final consclusion?
There is insufficient evidence
to make recommendations for or against the use of low-carbohydrate
So in other words,
the conclusion was inconclusive. Here's another interesting
part of the conclusion:
Participant weight loss while
using low-carbohydrate diets was principally associated
with decreased caloric intake and increased diet duration
but not with reduced carbohydrate content.
Do these studies lend
any credence to the idea that diets are in fact a solution?
If you're searching for a diet, allow me to provide a few
questions you might want to consider before beginning a course
Have you been on a diet before?
If it worked, why would you still be searching?
Have you lost weight and gained
it back on a diet? Doesn't that indicate the diet's failure?
Why would you return to a
technology that continues to fail people?
Atkins Diet Revisited
In the wake of the
unfortunate and untimely passing of Dr. Atkins, I feel obliged
to share all of my concerns related to the low carb diet in
order to provide a resource for those seeking complete clarity
on the risks, benefits, and potential outcomes. I've compiled
those concerns in a lengthy article (you might have to digest
it - no pun intended - in two or three sittings) which is
available in its entirety right now. Click
here for the entire article.
Heshka S, et
al. Weight Loss With Self-help Compared With a Structured
Commercial Program: A Randomized Trial. JAMA 2003 Apr
Bravata DM, Sanders
L, Huang J, Krumholz HM, Olkin I, Gardner CD, Bravata
DM. Efficacy and safety of low-carbohydrate diets: a systematic
review. JAMA 2003 Apr 9;289(14):1837-50
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