Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers, Zone Diet--All Poop Out...

A new study has determined that fad diets like Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers, and the Zone produced only modest weight-loss with limited sustainability. Ian Ayres of the Freakonomics blog has more:

A randomized control year-long study looked at the impact of four different diets (Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers, and Zone Diets) on a group of overweight and obese subjects who were looking to lose weight. The diets produced only “modest” average weight loss of about 6.4 lbs (2.3 percent of original body weight) and found no statistically significant difference in weight loss for the four different diets.

People do a pretty good job of losing weight for about half a year, and then their weight tends to drift back toward their pre-diet number. The difficulty of sustaining weight loss can be seen in this figure taken from a 2-year randomized study of the Weight Watchers program:

Now, news like this is rather redundant. Diets programs like Atkins and Weight Watchers are nothing but hype—BIG wastes of time! According to Dr. Fuhrman diets like these are doomed to fail. He explains:

All those second rate diets fail, because without addressing adequate micronutrient density, people crave more food than their body requires for good health.

In spite of the more than $110 million consumers spend every day on diets and “reducing” programs (more than $40 billion per year), Americans are the most obese people in history. To be considered obese, more than one-third of a person’s body must be made up of fat. A whopping 34 percent of all Americans are obese, and the problem is getting worse, not better.

Unfortunately, most weight-loss plans either don’t work or offer only minor, usually temporary, benefits. There are plenty of “rules and counting” diets, diet drugs, high-protein programs, canned shakes, and other fads that might enable you to lose some weight for a period of time. The problem is that you can’t stay on these programs forever.

Here’s my UNEXPERT opinion. Ditch the “diet” and change your lifestyle. Hey, it worked for me—Healthy, with a Vengeance!

Food Scoring Guide: You Are What You Eat!

If you need to lose weight, grasp the concept that being overweight has mostly to do with what you eat, not how much you eat. This is because micronutrient fulfillment (getting your fill of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and fiber) blunts the drive to consume calories. Eating primarily high-nutrient foods is nothing like being on a “diet” (where you try to eat less). First of all, you will be eating hearty portions of (low-calorie) food. But most importantly, high-nutrient foods are so nutritionally satisfying that you simply will have less desire for the high-calorie, low-nutrient foods that put the weight on in the first place.

I hope it is clear that I am not advocating that you eat primarily high-nutrient foods for a period of time to lose weight and then go back to your old eating habits. I am advocating that you eat primarily high-nutrient foods from now on. The common practice of losing weight for a temporary period of time and then gaining it back is of no benefit to your health. Good health is dependent on maintaining a stable lighter weight for the rest of your life. The means you should not diet. What you should do is learn to eat a nutrient-rich diet, which automatically reset your weight to a lower point permanently.

Poverty's Diet Strain

Poverty is more than a fiscal problem. It can also affect health. Canadian researchers have determined that poor households end up eating nutritionally risky diets. Alan Mozes HealthDay News reports:
The new study is the first to show that food insecurity directly translates into poor nutrition. It also suggests that in such homes, adults and teens, rather than very young children, are the most likely to be subsisting on diets low in vitamins, minerals, fruits, vegetables, grains and meat.

"Over the long term, [food insecurity] could be expected to precipitate and complicate diet-related chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease," cautioned study co-author, Sharon Kirkpatrick, a doctoral candidate in the department of nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto…

…The study highlights similar estimates for 2006, suggesting that 12.6 million U.S. households experience food insecurity, while 4.6 million have one or more family members going without food. Recent Canadian research indicates that just over 9 percent of households are food-insecure.

Against such numbers, Kirkpatrick and Tarasuk set out to analyze eating habits, detailed in interviews conducted by Statistics Canada between 2004 and 2005. The survey included 35,000 Canadians between the ages of 1 and 70 drawn from all socioeconomic groups.
The poor—I hate using that term—do take quite the health hit. It comes up in the news all the time. Let’s look at some previous reports. First, from the Associated Press, Why are U.S. Kids Obese. Here’s a bit:
"The environment that they live in matters," said Lisa Powell of the University of Illinois at Chicago, who studied restaurant and food store options in the neighborhoods and food-related television advertising aimed at teens.

She said when people cannot get to supermarkets but instead must rely on the convenience stores that proliferate in many poor neighborhoods, families end up eating less healthy food.
Next up, Paige Parker of The Oregonian tells us why poor kids are at a high-risk of packing on extra summer vacation pounds. Take a look:
A new study highlighted the summer weight-gain phenomenon among young children. Researchers in the Midwest looked at the body mass index, which relates height to weight, of 5,380 students. They followed them for two years, from kindergarten through first grade, and found the average index grew more than twice as quickly over the summer than during the school year.

Children of the working poor may be especially at risk because they are left indoors while their parents are at jobs. While at home, kids eat and drink what they want, says Dr. Jennifer Bass, a pediatrician who chairs a national pediatricians special-interest group on obesity. Bass estimates as many as 30 percent of her patients are overweight.
Now Randy Dotinga of HealthDay News explains that low-income children face a heighten chance of being obese, even before they are out of diapers. Check it out:
"The message is that we're seeing overweight and obesity at younger ages than we thought possible," said study author Rachel Tolbert Kimbro, a health and society scholar at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. "It's a particular problem in lower-income communities, and it's something we need to keep an eye on and prevent as much as possible."

According to Kimbro, there's been little research into weight problems among very young children. But, studies have shown high rates of obesity among older children and teenagers.

In the new study, the researchers examined surveys of parents who had children from 1998 to 2000 in 20 large U.S. cities. The parents lived in urban areas and were poor.
Finally, this report looks out way the poor and immigrants living in New York City are waist-deep in the diabetes epidemic. More from N.R. Kleinfield of The New York Times:
New York, perhaps more than any other big city, harbors all the ingredients for a continued epidemic. It has large numbers of the poor and obese, who are at higher risk. It has a growing population of Latinos, who get the disease in disproportionate numbers, and of Asians, who can develop it at much lower weights than people of other races.

It is a city of immigrants, where newcomers eating American diets for the first time are especially vulnerable. It is also yielding to the same forces that have driven diabetes nationally: an aging population, a food supply spiked with sugars and fats, and a culture that promotes overeating and discourages exercise.
Frightening news, no doubt it compounds when you consider that most low-income families either have limited or no insurance. Makes you wonder how much better the state of American healthcare would be if everyone starting eating a nutrient-dense diet!

Your Diet is a Failure!

Diet Blog serves up 5 Reasons Why Your Diet Is Failing. Here’s my favorite reason:
What Are You Drinking?
Did you know that calories from beverages make up a massive 22% of the average American diet (see more). I have a friend who eats small meals - thinking he's watching his weight - but then consumes hundreds of calories from beer.

Take time now to examine how many liquid calories you consume.
Think about it. How many chronic dieters do you know who literally go belly up at the bar?

Food Scoring Guide: Weight Loss and Cholesterol

When you drop body fat, your cholesterol lowers somewhat. But when you reduce animal protein intake and increase vegetable protein intake, your cholesterol lowers dramatically. In fact, when a high-fiber, high-nutrient, vegetable-heavy diet was tested in a scientific investigation, it was found to lower cholesterol even more than most cholesterol-lowering drugs.1 As you eat more vegetables and fewer animal products, the nutrient density of your diet will go up automatically. Vegetables not only contain adequate protein, they have no saturated fat or cholesterol, and they are higher in nutrients per calorie than any other food. You can achieve your ideal weight and slow the aging process with a high phytochemical intake. So eat more vegetables!

The cholesterol-lowering effects of vegetables and beans (high-protein foods) are without question. However, they contain an assortment of additional heart disease-fighting nutrients independent of their ability to lower cholesterol.2 They fight cancer, too. Cancer incidence worldwide has an inverse relation with fruit and vegetable intake.3 If you increase your intake 80%, the risk of getting cancer drops 80%.
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Carbs Okay for Weight-Loss

Honestly, I hate using the word “carbs.” It’s a such a fad word, for fad diets, but carbs are in the news and this report caught my eye. One nutritionist claims carbs can actually help promote weight-loss. Check out this video from ABC News:

I don’t know about “resistant carbs.” Sounds like mumbo-jumbo to me, but fiber certainly isn’t and whole foods are loaded with fiber; like beans, bananas, green vegetables, and squash. And as Dr. Fuhrman explains, these foods/carbs do in fact encourage weight-loss:

When you eat high-carbohydrate foods, such as fresh fruits and beans, you eat more food and still keep your caloric intake relatively low. The high fiber content of (unrefined) carbohydrate-rich food is another crucial reason you will feel more satisfied and not crave more food when you make unrefined carbohydrates the main source of calories in your diet.

Don't fear eating foods rich in carbohydrates and don't be afraid of eating fruit because it contains sugar. Even the plant foods that are high in carbohydrate contain sufficient fiber and nutrients and are low enough in calories to be considered nutritious. As long as they are unrefined, they should not be excluded from your diet. In fact, it is impossible to glean all the nutrients needed for optimal health if your diet does no contain lots of carbohydrate-rich food.

Clearly, the taboo against carbohydrates is ill-informed. Refined junk—like white rice, bread, and sugar—are the “carbs” you want to avoid, but wholesome fiber-full foods like fruits and vegetables are the key to a healthy diet. More from Dr. Fuhrman’s Food Scoring Guide:

I urge you to start eating a diet that contains more high-nutrient plant foods today. Eat fewer animal products and fewer processed foods, and replace these calories with more fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and beans. At minimum, I recommend that you cut back on animal-product consumption from servings a day to one serving a day. Better yet, when you use animal products, add them to a dish in small amounts like condiments so that the total amount you consume each week will be even less. Eat vegetarian dinners frequently.

Make this dietary transition an exciting adventure where you learn new great-tasting recipes with high-nutrient plant foods. Design a food plan that uses large quantities of the most powerful anticancer, disease-fighting foods on the planet, make it taste, and then test it to see what kinds of results you get. I can tell you now that the results will astound you!

So, when you hear fad-terms like carbs, zone-diet, and south beach, just ignore them and focus on natural things like fruit, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds—phooey to the hype!

Food Scoring Guide: Diet and Disease

Diets of all description flood the market, but fewer than 3 people out of a 100 are successful at losing weight and keeping it off permanently. The number of overweight and obese individuals is at an all-time high and still climbing. Although many people accept the notion that disease is the result of genetics or luck, the reality is that nutrition, exercise, and environment overwhelmingly overshadow genetic considerations. For example, those living in rural China have less than a 2% heart disease risk, but when these same individuals move to America, their children develop the same rates of heart disease as other Americans.

Obviously, the diseases that afflict today’s Americans are not the result of luck of genetics. They are a recent phenomenon in human history and directly parallel unhealthful changes in dietary patterns. The ten-fold increase in heart attacks in the last 100 years is because we are eating more low-nutrient foods—lots more. You cannot escape from the biological law of cause and effect. Health results from healthful living and eating. Disease and premature death result primarily from unhealthful food choices.

The Fascist Approach to Diet

This is certainly a unique take on dieting. Blackmail yourself. “Dear self, if I don’t lose weight, I will donate money to the American Nazi Party or my car to Ku Klux Klan.” You’ve go see it, to believe it. Bill Toland of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has more:
Dr. Bear wrote the farcical "Blackmail Diet" more than two decades ago -- if you want to shed those stubborn pounds, sign a legally binding contract mandating a certain weight loss. And if you don't satisfy the contract's requirements, you must fork over, say, $5,000 to the American Nazi Party, which happens to be the precise deal Dr. Bear struck with himself.

Wouldn't ya know it? Those 70 pounds melted right off. (Although one poor reader, having failed to lose the weight, reported that he'd be donating his car to the Ku Klux Klan.)

"We have known this since the earliest times," he said when contacted in his California home. "The bigger the incentive, either positive or negative, the more likely it is to work." Behavioral scientists know it. Prophets in the Bible knew it -- screw up, and you'll go to hell. The penalties don't get much bigger than that.

Dr. Bear's creepy vision has arrived, and not just in the form of "The Biggest Loser," NBC's grotesque of a hit, featuring obese men and women trying to get in shape for a cash prize. Clinical studies and economists are more or less on his side. In recent months, health insurers, city mayors, British politicians and university professors have all come up with their own versions of plans that dangle dollar bills in front of clients and customers, hoping the carrot -- or a stiff penalty -- will be enough incentive to shape up.
I don’t like this one bit. Here’s why. Just look at all the dollars Americans spend on weight-loss, I don’t want either one of these despicable “organizations” getting a single dime. From Dr. Fuhrman’s book Eat to Live:
In spite of the more than $110 million consumers spend every day on diets and “reducing” programs (more than $40 billion per year), Americans are the most obese people in history. To be considered obese, more than one-third of a person’s body must be made up of fat. A whopping 34 percent of all Americans are obese, and the problem is getting worse, not better.
Here’s an idea, don’t blackmail yourself—love yourself! In my opinion—and mind you, I’m just a smart-aleck—I think this is a disgusting premise.

Standard American Low-Fat--JUNK--Diet

Kudos to Diet Blog for finding this one. Apparently some researchers think all these low-fat health guidelines we have been force-fed for years are doing more harm than good. Here’s an excerpt from ScienceDaily, take a look:
In 2000, the Dietary Guideline Advisory Committee suggested that the recommendation to lower fat, advised in the 1995 guidelines, had perhaps been ill-advised and might actually have some potential harm. The committee noted concern that "the previous priority given to a 'low-fat intake' may lead people to believe that, as long as fat intake is low, the diet will be entirely healthful. This belief could engender an overconsumption of total calories in the form of carbohydrates, resulting in the adverse metabolic consequences of high-carbohydrate diets," the committee wrote, while also noting that "an increasing prevalence of obesity in the United States has corresponded roughly with an absolute increase in carbohydrate consumption.
Okay, to better understand this quote, let’s talk about these age-old dietary recommendations. Perhaps nothing better illustrates them than the infamous United States food pyramid. Check it out via The University of Pennsylvania Health System:

Yeah, cause eating that way makes sense—tisk-tisk. Now, we all know that people eat too much refined and processed foods, but despite the carbophobia, Americans are still eating way too much fat. Dr. Fuhrman explains:
The claim that Americans have dramatically cut their fat intake is incorrect. In fact, nationally recognized food surveys, such as the National Food Consumption Survey and the National Health and Nutrition Survey, indicate that Americans consume somewhere between 34 and 37 percent of their calories from fat.1 Americans are still eating a very high fat diet. The reason for the rise in obesity in America is no mystery: we eat a high-calorie, high-fat diet.
Now, in the Food Scoring Guide Dr. Fuhrman’s describes what the typical American diet is made of—a lot junk! More from Dr. Fuhrman:
Americans have access to a greater abundance of affordable high-nutrient, low-calorie fruits and vegetables than any other people on the face of the earth. But a shocking 93% of the typical American diet consists of low-nutrient, high-calorie processed foods, animal foods, and dairy products, and only 7% of the calories we consume come from healthful fruits and vegetables. Sweet desserts, and soft drinks now comprise 25% of all calories consumed in America.
This chart should paint an even clearer picture for you. Have a look:

Neither of these graphics demonstrate that Americans understand the importance of eating mostly plant-foods. Okay, I’m no fan of idol worship, but here’s an image we can all get behind. It simply screams, “Eat your fruits and veggies!” Don’t you agree? Enjoy:

When you start eating as described in Dr. Fuhrman’s food pyramid you’ll avoid nasty fat and refined carbohydrates and that’s a good thing! Because as he explains, they are a deadly duo. Here’s why:
The combination of fat and refined carbohydrates has an extremely powerful effect on driving the signals that promote fat accumulation on the body. Refined foods cause a swift and excessive rise in blood sugar, which in turn triggers insulin surges to drive the sugar out of the blood and into our cells. Unfortunately, insulin also promotes the storage of fat on the body and encourages your fat cells to swell.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my fat cells to swell—EEK!
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Weight-Loss Good, Seriously

Well, not exactly earth-shattering news, but new research claims losing weight by either diet or exercise is good for the heart. Reuters is on it:
Researchers found that among 25 healthy but overweight middle-aged adults, moderate weight loss appeared to restore some the heart's youthful elasticity -- making it easier for the heart to relax between contractions and refill with blood.

It did not appear to matter whether the weight loss was achieved through diet changes or exercise, the researchers report in the American Journal of Physiology.

"If individuals want to do something that's good for their heart, then my message to them is lose weight by the method they find most tolerable," Dr. Sandor J. Kovacs, the senior researcher on the study, said in a statement.

"They're virtually guaranteed that it will have a salutary effect on their cardiovascular system," said Kovacs, a professor of medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri.
This reminds me of a report that came out this fall. It’s about how exercise can help prevent heart failure. Here’s a refresher from Amanda Gardner of HealthDay News:
According to two studies that were to be presented Wednesday at the American Heart Association annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., that response can dramatically enhance patients' ability to move and work out.

"Both studies point to the beneficial effect of exercise on patients with heart failure," said Dr. Sidney Smith, past president of the American Heart Association and director of the Center for Cardiovascular Science and Medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.

"These observations provide some understanding into the mechanisms which [make exercise helpful]," Smith said.

More than 5 million people in the United States have heart failure, a condition that affects the heart's ability to pump blood throughout the body.
And listen, we all know that adhering to a healthful diet is extremely heart-healthy. Take avoiding saturated fat for example. Dr. Fuhrman explains:
Saturated fat is the element of the modern diet that shows the most powerful association in these medical research studies with high cholesterol and premature death from heart attacks.1
In light of all this, I figured now is a great time to interject this quote from, my hero, Howard Stern. He dropped this on Wednesday’s show. Take a look:
I believe diet is the key for getting rid of a lot of illness.
Short, sweet, and to the point. Thanks Howard!
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