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Ketogenic Diet

Introduction

The ketogenic diet originated in the 1920s as a way to treat difficult-to-control epilepsy in children, but with the introduction of effective anticonvulsant drugs in the 1930s, the diet approach fell to the wayside.  The-high fat, moderate protein, low carbohydrate diet approach remerged in the late 1980s with the popularity of low/no carbohydrate diet plans like the Atkins diet, which is a more moderate form of a ketogenic diet.

Promise

You can lose weight by severely restricting the number of calories from carbohydrates.  

Premise

In simplistic terms, the diet works to starve the body of carbohydrates and sugars, which helps produce insulin and prevents fat breakdown in the body.  By decreasing carbohydrates, you can lower insulin levels forcing the body to burn stored fat for energy.

Program Overview

Normally, the carbohydrates from foods when ingested are converted into glucose, which is then transported and used throughout the body.  Excess glucose is stored as fat.  If carbohydrate intake is severely restricted, the liver will move to convert stored fats into fatty acids and keotone bodies.  These keotone bodies then pass into the brain and replace glucose as the primary source of energy, helping to kick-start the body into a more dramatic fat-burning mode. In a nutshell, the process of ketosis will occur by following a high-fat diet and severely restricting carbohydrates and calories.  

The number of calories allowed on a ketogenic diet depends on the age and activity level of the participant, but generally, participants are expected to receive eighty percent of their calories from fatty foods like milk, cream, full-fat yogurt, and butter.  Commonly eaten foods on a ketogenic diet include egg, tuna, and chicken salads made with full-fat mayo, cheesecake, omelets, and shakes.   Foods to be avoided include sugar, grains, flour, cereals, rice, and pasta.  

Plan Strengths

Ketogenic diets do remain controversial in terms of their effectiveness; however, some studies have suggested that low-carbohydrate diets can be somewhat effective for achieving weight loss.  In the short term, participants following a ketogenic diet tend to produce faster weight loss in comparison to someone following a more traditional low-fat diet.  However, over the long term, i.e. six or more months, there are no significant differences between the two approaches.

Participants will likely feel fuller for longer periods on this diet because of the relatively high intake of fats and proteins, as fats and proteins take longer to digest.  

Plan Weaknesses

This is a very difficult diet to follow, and some reports suggest that a large percentage of participants tend to quit within the first 3 to 4 days because the diet is so restrictive in terms of carbohydrates, and the side effects are numerous.  Individuals on the diet have reported temporary dizziness, headache, lethargy, weakness, nausea, and more than half of the participants report mental fatigue and dullness.

The diet must be stringently followed to ensure participants are constantly eating the right ratio of foods (4:1 ratio of fats to protein and carbohydrates).  If under the supervision of a doctor and nutritionist, this may be easy to accomplish, but as most people tend to take on a diet without this type of professional support, getting the right ratio of food, all the time, might prove challenging.

Ketogenic diets are not suited for everyone.  The diet puts a strain on the liver and kidneys; therefore, pregnant women, individuals suffering from kidney or liver disease, and alcoholics should not attempt.  

A ketogenic diet is not a long-term weight loss solution.  By eliminating or severely restricting carbohydrates from your diet, you severely restrict your intake of several vital vitamins and minerals.  Furthermore, the diet is an approach to eating and does not make any recommendations for exercise.  However, given that the diet will likely cause fatigue and loss of energy, at least in the first few weeks, finding the energy to even consider working out may prove challenging.  

Conclusion

Eating foods such as eggs, omelets and shakes may sound appealing in a weight loss program, but it does have its notable drawbacks.  The diet’s strictness and potential medical complications should not be brushed aside.  Additionally, it is important to keep in mind that this is not a long-term weight loss solution.  It simply is not a sustainable way of life.  Even children who suffer from epilepsy, and who must follow the diet for medical reasons, do not generally stay on the diet for more than a year or two.  

Gentler versions of the ketogenic diet, such as the Atkins Diet, may prove more appealing and less stressful on the body.  However, if you are completely set on attempting this type of approach, then be sure to discuss it with your doctor beforehand.  

Consider this approach only as a short-term solution and have a longer-term sustainable plan in place for when you come off the diet.

The information provided here is for educational or informational purposes only.  Dave DePew does not endorse any of the programs/services reviewed here. Before starting a new exercise regime or weight loss plan, talk with your doctor.

Additional Resources

Low-carb diet, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/low-carb-diet/NU00279 

Wikepedia:  Ketogenic Diet, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ketogenic_diet 

Atkins Diet

Introduction

Dr. Robert C. Atkins first introduced the Atkins Diet in the early 1970s.  The program enjoyed sporadic popularity over the next few decades, gathering a strong following in the 1990s with his best-selling book Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution.  It has been estimated that over 20 million people worldwide have tried the diet, and according to The Atkins Center for Complementary Medicine in New York, the Atkins Diet has been used to successfully treat everything from obesity and Type 2 diabetes, to high cholesterol, elevated triglycerides, and high blood pressure.

Promise

You can lose weight and not be hungry if you follow a strict low-carbohydrate diet.   

Premise

People consume too many carbohydrates, which contributes to weight gain.  Therefore, cut the carbs and load up on proteins and fats, and your body will naturally lose weight.   

Program Overview

Our bodies burn both carbohydrates and fats, with carbs burned first.  The Atkins Diet suggests that if you drastically reduce carb intake and eat more proteins and fats, your body will naturally lose weight by burning stored fat more efficiently.  How does it do that?

When your food regimen changes from a high-carb/high-glycemic diet to one that does not provide sufficient carbs to replenish glycogen stores, your body starts going through a set of stages to enter ketosis.  During ketosis, the brain switches over to burning ketones, which are produced when the body burns fat for energy or fuel, drawing on the body’s existing fat stores, and reserving remaining glucose only for its absolute needs.  This also ensures that the body’s store of protein in muscles is not depleted.   Thus, fat is burned more efficiently, and you feel less hungry, less likely to eat as much, and ultimately lose weight.

There are four phases to the program:

Phase 1:  Induction  

This phase generally lasts two weeks.  During this initial period, you are expected to severely limit carb intake to just 20 grams per day (typically, we consume 250 g). You can eat unlimited amounts of traditionally rich foods such as red meats, eggs, and cheese, but must strictly avoid high-carb foods, especially refined sugar, milk, white rice, flour, and grains.   

Phase 2:  Ongoing Weight Loss

During this phase, you can slightly increase your carb intake by 5g daily for a week at a time until you can find your Critical Carbohydrate Level for Losing Weight.  This is the maximum amount of carbs you can eat each day to still lose between one and three pounds a week.  

Phase 3:  Pre-Maintenance

Once you have just 5 to 10 pounds left to lose, you can increase carb intake by 10g each day for a week at a time.  The idea is to slow down your weight loss to no more than a pound a week to get your body ready for the final phase of weight management.  At this phase, you are allowed to begin including a tiny (and I mean tiny) amount of traditionally starchy foods like bread or pasta.

Phase 4:  Lifetime Maintenance

In this final phase, you can have a slightly more varied diet that allows carb intake to increase.  Most people will still be limited to around 90 to 120g a day, which is still significantly less than what we normally eat in a day.  

Foods 

Program participants can eat unlimited amounts of all meats, poultry, fish, eggs, and most cheeses. Vegetable oils are allowed, as are high-fat condiments such as butter, sour cream, mayonnaise, and guacamole. Small amounts of non-starchy vegetables and certain fruits (such as cantaloupe and berries) are allowed.  The diet greatly restricts the consumption of carbohydrates: bread, pasta, cereals, starchy vegetables, dairy products (except cheese, sour cream, butter, and heavy cream), most fruits, and foods containing refined sugars.

Plan Strengths

One of the program’s biggest strengths is that you do not need to cut out the foods you love best such as meat, cream, cheese, and other high-fat foods.  Because you have so many choices of foods that will keep you from getting hungry, your risk of cheating is considered smaller in comparison to other low-calorie programs that are more restrictive.  

A low-carb diet may be a more natural diet for humans, as it focuses on meat instead of grains (wheat, rice, etc.), which have only been a part of the human diet for the last 10,000 years or so.  In the evolutionary scheme of things, the argument that our bodies have not evolved and adapted enough to cope with the introduction of these new diet components is often made.

There are definitely health and weight loss benefits to limiting sugary processed foods, like cakes, cookies, ice cream, candies, donuts, chips, French fries, processed flour, and bread product, as advocated by the Atkins Diet.  According to Atkins literature, participants can lose considerable amounts of weight quickly (claims are up to 10 to 30 lbs. within the first month) and not feel continually hungry.   A review of over 60 studies on the Atkins and other low-carb diets supports this premise, finding that people on these types of diets tend to lose more weight in the first six months.  However, it is important to point out here, that weight loss was similar to what was seen on other plans after that initial 12-month period.   

According to the Atkins official website, a NIH funded Stanford University Diet Study (2007) published in the Journal of American Medical Association found that the Atkins Diet delivered the strongest weight loss results with the most beneficial metabolic effects among four top diet regimens (Atkins, the Zone, LEARN and Ornish diets).

Two studies published in The New England Journal of Medicine and Annals of Internal Medicine support the Atkins Diet for improving heart health.  The studies found that several healthy heart indicators, such as a decrease in serum triglyceride levels, a greater increase in serum HDL (“good” cholesterol), and a reduction in LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) and total cholesterol levels were found among participants of the Atkins Diet.  

Plan Weaknesses

One of the major criticisms leveled against the Atkins plan is that it fails to provide for adequate nutrients needed for normal bodily function.  For instance, the brain needs glucose to function efficiently and it takes a long time to break down fat and protein to get to the brain.  Carbs, especially from vegetables, grains and fruits are more efficiently and quickly converted to glucose, which the brain needs.  Under the Atkins program, participants are severely restricted in eating carbs, thus, the American Dietetic Association is concerned that the program does not allow for the minimum carbs (150 g/day) needed to ensure proper metabolic activity.  

Another criticism is that it may increase your risk of developing cancer.  According to the American Cancer Society and a large body of existing research, 33 to 50 percent of all cancers can be prevented through the consumption of a healthy diet.  Therefore, it has been recommended that we eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.  This, of course, goes against everything the Atkins Diet advocates.

Japan enjoys one of the lowest rates of obesity, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes in the world.  Surprisingly, their diet is very rich in carbohydrate content and very low in saturated fat and red meats.  This healthy diet contradicts that of the Atkins plan, which is hard to reconcile considering the general good health of the Japanese people.  Apparently, they must be doing something right.   

Because the diet is so restrictive in terms of what you can eat, it has a high drop rate.  In some studies, up to 40 percent dropped out because they could not adhere to the diet.  For vegetarians, the program is not very accommodating.  In its early stages, the program does not allow for nuts, seeds, beans, and many vegetables.  Therefore, vegetarians are left with few food options.

Some plan participants have also reported side effects such as chronic bad breath, constipation, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, insomnia, and nausea.   Additionally, by focusing on using fats instead of carbohydrates for energy, an increase in uric acid has been found, meaning participants have an increased chance of experiencing kidney problems, gout, and headaches.

Conclusion

While there appears to be definite weight loss achieved using the Atkins plan, it is difficult to determine if it is a result of the actual diet regimen or simply because calorie intake is severely restricted.  Furthermore, the diet plan appears to advocate the limitation of certain macronutrients (i.e., carbohydrates) which play an important role in proper body function.  In short, it does not seem to advocate establishing a well-balanced healthy long-term plan for eating.  Finally, exercising may prove challenging as many participants often complain, at least in the early stages, of experiencing weakness and tiredness.

The information provided here is for educational or informational purposes only.  Dave DePew does not endorse any of the programs/services reviewed here.  

Additional Resources

Atkins – Official website.  www.atkins.com/Homepage.aspx 

Barrett, S.  Low-Carbohydrate Diet. Quackwatch. http://www.quackwatch.org/06ResearchProjects/lcd.html 

Goodwin, K.  Atkins Diet:  A Comprehensive Analysis. http://www.thedietchannel.com/atkins.htm 

Eat Fat, Get Thin.  UC Berkley.  Wellness Letter, April 2000. 

http://wellnessletter.com/html/wl/2000/wlFeatured0400.html 

Atkins Diet Overview.  WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/diet/atkins-diet-what-it-is 

The Juice Diet

Introduction

Juice Diets are a form of detox dieting generally used to help cleanse the body and jump-start metabolism.  In simple terms, it is a form of extreme fasting.  While some people do stay on juice diets for long periods, most of these programs were not designed as long-term weight loss solutions.  If you intend to undertake a juice diet for more than one to three days, it is recommended that you consult with a physician.  

Promise

Eliminate solid foods, and stick to only drinking fruit and/or vegetable juice and you can lose weight.  

Premise

The body is loaded with poisons and toxins.  By using a juice fast, we can rid the body of these harmful substances.  After fasting, it is then easier to incorporate a healthier diet for the long term.

Program Overview

Juice diets or fasts are designed to cleanse the body of toxins, but they are severely restrictive and specific in what you can and cannot have.  Most juice fasting plans are used as a complement to a longer-term weight loss program and are therefore only 1 to 3 days in length.  However, some proponents recommend staying on these types of fasting programs longer. How long? The general rule of thumb is that you should stay on a fasting program until you have been free of the detoxification symptoms (which are often severe) for at least two days.  

There is a wide range of juice plans out there and you will find a lot of variation in terms of the types of fruits and vegetables that should be used, how much you should drink, and when.  Here are a few general recommendations:

  • Throughout the day, sip between 32 and 64 ounces of juice. 
  • Also, drink between six glasses of room temperature or warm filtered water each day.
  • Stick to juices made of celery, carrot, cabbage, kale, spinach, beets, apple, cranberry, and pineapple.  It is best to avoid citrus fruit-based juices.
  • Drink organic, freshly prepared juice.
  • No solid foods are allowed while on the diet.

Plan Strengths

Certain juices do have healing and cleansing properties that can allow the body to undergo gentle and safe detoxification.  

Plan Weaknesses

Claims of losing 30 to 40 pounds in 30 days should be viewed with great skepticism.  For most people, fasting will lead to weight loss.  Why?  Dramatically reducing your caloric intake is going to lead to weight loss.  That is a no-brainer.  What is important to note is that much of that weight loss, especially in the first few days, is likely going to be in the form of water weight.

The list of side effects from juice fasting is long and includes everything from fainting, dizziness, and low blood pressure to vomiting, diarrhea, and kidney problems.  Women that are pregnant or people suffering from various health conditions should not attempt to.

Juice diets provide very little nutritional value.  They are extremely restrictive as a source of protein and fat and provide very few calories.  While vegetable and fruit juices are a good source of vitamins and minerals and contain certain cancer-fight phytochemicals, the benefit is minimal in comparison to what is lost in other nutritional areas.  You are much better off eating the fruits and vegetables whole.  You can then reap the benefits of increasing your metabolism and ingesting much-needed fiber.    

Ironically, a juice diet could actually make it harder for your body to rid itself of waste, as constipation is likely to occur due to the lack of fiber needed to get the job done.  Additionally, staying on this program long-term could lead to your body’s metabolism slowing.  The body may begin to believe it is being starved and actually start consuming muscle for energy.   Simply put, it just is not healthy to stay on this type of plan long-term.

Conclusion

The body does periodically experience a buildup of toxins and poisons that can prove harmful to your health and well-being.  Detoxing regularly can go a long way in improving your general health, and if starting a new weight loss regimen, assist as a jump-off point.  Ridding the body of toxins and poisons that can potentially harm your health is a good thing.  With that said, detoxification for more than a few days should be monitored by a healthcare professional.  

As a weight loss solution, the juice diet is not a good solution.  Participants would experience temporary weight loss from loss of water, but long-term sustainable weight loss is not likely.  A low-fat, well-balanced diet approach supplemented by regular exercise would definitely serve you better.

The information provided here is for educational or informational purposes only.  Dave DePew does not endorse any of the programs/services reviewed here.  

Additional Resources

Juice Fasting – www.juicefasting.org

Juice Fast – What You Need to Know About a Juice Fast, About.com, http://altmedicine.about.com/od/detoxcleansing/a/juice_fasting.htm 

Doing Less and Accomplishing More:  A Technique for Successful Fasting

http://www.doctoryourself.com/juicefast.html 

Alkaline Acid Diet

Introduction

The Alkaline Diet, also known as the Acid Alkaline Diet, Alkaline Acid Diet, and the Alkaline Ash Diet, is an approach to eating that has been around in some form or another since the early 1920s.   This is not a unified diet, but a general theory of eating based loosely on the belief that we should return to a diet that is more in keeping with our hunter-gatherer ancestors.  A diet filled with minimally processed plant and animal foods.  

Promise

Eating a pH-balanced diet filled with fresh vegetables and fruits will lead to better health, and weight loss for some participants, since removing the buildup of acid from our bodies will translate into weight loss.

Premise

A diet comprised of high acid-producing foods disrupts our body’s natural pH level (a range of 7.35 to 7.45).  This leads to an imbalance, which causes a host of symptoms, illnesses, and even weight gain.  If we switch to eating a diet that supports our body’s natural pH balance, i.e. eating low acid/high alkaline foods, we can ensure that our body’s pH balance is maintained and good health enjoyed.  

Program Overview

According to the Alkaline Diet approach, almost all foods after being eaten, absorbed, and metabolized are released as either an acid or an alkaline (bicarbonate) into the blood.   Diets high in acid-producing foods can wreck havoc with our body’s natural pH balance and promote the loss of essential minerals such as potassium, magnesium, calcium and sodium when the body tries to restore this natural equilibrium.

Our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate diets that were rich in fresh vegetables and fruits, which helped to reduce the acid build-up in our bodies.  Over time, foods such as grains, meats, cheeses and dairy, which are high acid producers, were consumed in greater quantity, and fresh vegetables and fruit consumption in lesser amounts.  To maintain a proper pH balance, we, therefore, need to return to eating a diet similar to our ancestors, i.e. high in whole and natural foods and low in acid.

Followers of the Alkaline Diet approach recommend consuming a diet that is comprised 75% of alkaline-producing foods and 25% of acid-based foods.  Examples of alkaline-producing foods include vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts and grains, and sprouts.  Acid-based foods include meats, dairy products, and convenience foods.  

Plan Strengths

Supporters of this approach insist that participants do not need to eliminate any foods from their diets, just simply learn to eat foods that are high in acid in moderation.  Additionally, the approach does receive high marks for encouraging the consumption of whole foods, and raw fruits and vegetables.  

Supporters of the approach claim the program:

  • Increases energy, concentration and focus – by eliminating the acids that build up in your body, bogging you down.
  • Helps with losing weight – Weight gain is caused by acid build up in the body. If you can effectively remove excess acids and corresponding fat cells, and you will lose weight.  
  • Eliminates digestion problems, acid reflux and heartburn.
  • Reduces aging – the Alkaline Diet is high in antioxidants, which help to get rid of free radicals that cause wrinkles and signs of aging.
  • Solves skin problems – an acidic body is the primary culprit of skin problems.

Plan Weaknesses

The primary charge leveled against the Alkaline Diet is there are no large clinical trials that support this approach.  While conventional medicine does agree a high alkaline diet is helpful in preventing kidney stones, osteoporosis and the degeneration of muscle tone, the consensus is that there is no validity to the “science” behind this approach.

Critics argue that the body has a natural tendency to self-regulate and correct its pH balance without help, and that contrary to what proponents of the approach claim, it is impossible for the body to achieve and maintain an imbalanced pH for a prolonged time.  

People with acute or chronic kidney disease should not participate, and individuals with pre-existing heart disease, or who are on medications that affect potassium levels, should consult with their physician before undertaking.

Conclusion

The Alkaline Diet receives high marks for promoting the consumption of whole foods and raw fruits and vegetables, and its apparent support of eating foods in moderation.  However, without any clinical trial evidence to prove its validity, its potential benefits in terms of long-term health and weight loss are merely speculative.  With that said, there is some evidence that a high alkaline/low acid diet may prove beneficial in preventing a few specific health concerns (i.e. kidney stones, osteoporosis, and muscle tone degeneration).  

The information provided here is for educational or informational purposes only.  Dave DePew does not endorse any of the programs/services reviewed here.  

Additional Resources

Alkaline Diet, www.alkalinediet.org

Alkaline Acid Diet on About.com, http://altmedicine.about.com/od/popularhealthdiets/a/alkalinediet.htm 

Essence of Life – Alkaline Diet

http://www.essense-of-life.com/moreinfo/foodcharts.htm 

Alkaline Diets and Cancer: Fact or Fiction?

http://www.intelihealth.com/IH/ihtIH?d=dmtHMSContent&c=465747&p=~br,IHW|~st,24479|~r,WSIHW000|~b,* 

The 3-Hour Diet

Introduction

Fitness professional, journalist and author Jorge Cruise is the creator of the 3-Hour Diet.  Cruise has authored several books on the idea that the timing of meals makes a difference when it comes to losing weight.

Promise

You can lose up to 2 pounds of fat a week, without losing muscle, by simply timing your meals correctly.

Premise

By eating the “right foods” every three hours, participants can increase their Baseline Metabolic Rate (BMR), which controls how fast your body burns calories.  Increasing BMR also leads to increased energy levels and decreased appetite.

Program Overview

In the 3-Hour Diet, timing is literally everything.  According to Cruise, you can eat anything and lose weight if you follow three basic rules:

1. Eat breakfast within one hour of waking up, 

2.  Eat every three hours after that, and 

3.  Stop eating 3 hours before going to bed.

Cruise places great emphasis on needing to eat every three hours.  It is a fundamental cornerstone of his plan that participants eat five or six smaller meals each day.  While he provides no guidance on what foods to eat – there are no bad foods, just bad portion sizes —  Cruise does offer up a visual map of sorts in regards to what a typical meal should look like.

Each meal should come in at around 400 calories, but participants are not expected to count calories.  Instead, they should focus on specific visual cues to determine portion sizes.  For instance, at each meal, carbohydrates should be the size of a Rubik’s cube, proteins the size of a deck of playing cards (about 3 oz), fruits and vegetables should measure the size of 3 DVD cases stacked on top each other, and fats should be no more than the size of a water cap (1 tsp).

Plan Strengths

The plan incorporates several weight loss winning components such as eating breakfast, controlling portion size, and reducing calories.  Overall, it focuses on the importance of eating a low-fat, moderate carbohydrate, high protein, and fiber diet, which has proven successful for many people. 

The books and website provide extensive meal lists, suggestions and tips for healthy eating, and a ton of recipes for vegetarians and carnivores alike.  As long as participants can accurately measure portion sizes by the suggested visual cues, they should be able to stay within the suggested calorie guidelines.  For people that do not relish counting calories, this may be a significant selling point.

No foods are off limits, including candy so for participants craving variety, this plan hits the spot.

Plan Weaknesses

Research studies are not conclusive or in agreement regarding whether BMR is affected by meal timing, or whether eating five small meals is more beneficial than three large meals.  Currently, the only factor that has been shown to consistently raise someone’s BMR is exercise.  Cruise does not place a lot of emphasis on exercise, but does provide participants with some guidelines and exercise videos on his paid-program website.

Some participants on the plan have reported gaining weight from eating five smaller meals.  It may be difficult to pinpoint a specific reason, but one possible suggestion is that the opportunities to overeat are greater on a five-meal approach.

Eating religiously every 3 hours may also prove difficult for many people whose schedule does not allow them to stop, take a break, and eat.   Finally, the cost may be prohibitive for some people.  A 3-Hour Diet membership, which provides a variety of online resources including customized meal plans, live on-call support, member chat, and food journals, is about $5 a week and billed quarterly at $65.

Conclusion

Experts cannot agree on whether eating five meals a day versus three can stimulate BMR, but a growing body of anecdotal evidence suggests it may have merit.  Overall, the 3-Hour Diet has many healthy elements and may work well for some participants, especially if they were to incorporate plenty of exercise into their weight loss regimen.

The information provided here is for educational or informational purposes only.  Dave DePew does not endorse any of the programs/services reviewed here.  

Additional Resources

3 Hour Diet, www.3hourdiet.com

The 3-Hour Diet, http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/the-3-hour-diet 

Mediterranean Diet

Introduction

The Mediterranean Diet (MD) was inspired by the traditional dietary patterns of the sixteen or so countries in the Mediterranean region.    First publicized in 1945 by American doctor Ancel Keys, the diet gradually gained attention and then popularity in the 1990s.  The plan, which delivers as much as 40 percent of total daily calories from fat, is unique in that the associated incidences of cardiovascular disease are significantly reduced.  The exact opposite of what one would expect to see in a diet full of fat.  The key however appears to lie in the types of fats consumed.

Promise

You can lower your risk of heart disease and cancer by following this heart-healthy approach to eating.

Premise

The plan does not set out to limit total fat consumption.  Instead, it discourages the eating of bad fats (saturated fats and hydrogenated oils) and encourages the consumption of healthier fats such as olive oil and polyunsaturated fats.

Program Overview

There is no set diet program.  This approach to eating is loosely based on the types of foods eaten and the lifestyle followed by the people of the Mediterranean region.  This means participants incorporate:

1.  Plenty of exercise.

2.  Generous amounts of fruits and vegetables.

3.  Healthy fats (olive and canola oils).

4.  More herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor food.

5.  A small portion of tree nuts into their diet.

6.  Red wine consumption in moderation.

7.  A limited amount of red meat.

8.  More coldwater fish into weekly meals. 

Foods 

The program traditionally includes generous daily servings of fresh vegetables and fruits, potatoes, beans, and seeds.  Fish is eaten on a regular basis, which is also a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids. Nuts, though high in fat (80% of calories coming from fat), are allowed, tree nuts, specifically, as they are low in saturated fats.  Therefore a handful a day of nuts like walnuts, pecans and hazel nuts, are permitted.   Fish and poultry are consumed in low to moderate amounts, and eggs are consumed no more than four times a week.

The MD food pyramid looks like this:

For comparison, take a look at the USDA food pyramid:

As you can see, they do differ.  The MD calls for less consumption of red meat and more fresh vegetables (typically nine servings a day).  Under the MD plan, more freshwater fish and nuts are consumed and are not grouped with red meats, as they are in the USDA food pyramid shown below.  

Plan Strengths

In comparison to some other diet programs, the MD is less restrictive and does not require complicated planning or formulas to follow.  Smart shoppers can easily adopt the MD, as the focus is on choosing plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, limiting red meat, and eating fish at least twice a week.  

The diet has been studied for years and has numerous scientific studies to back it up.  One of the longest studies followed 2,500 people for twelve years and found a significant decrease in body weight, blood pressure, blood fats, sugars, and insulin levels in people who followed the plan.  Another U.S. study released in 2007 found that both men and women who followed an MD were able to lower their risk of death from both heart disease and cancer.   

The program may improve more than just our physical health as well.  A study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry in 2009 showed that people following this plan were less likely to develop depression.  Another study conducted by Colombia University Medical Center found participants who followed the diet had a 40 percent less risk of developing Alzheimer’s than those who followed a more typical Western diet regimen.

Plan Weaknesses

While the plan has gained in popularity over the years as a diet and weight loss program, it is not really a weight loss program.  People have however reported losing weight while following this healthier eating plan.  

Even though a higher percentage of the calories on this program come from good fat sources, people have been known to over-indulge and consume too many “good” fat calories.  A big miscalculation as any fat – good or bad – eaten in excess will cause someone to add on the pounds.  

Individuals constantly on the go, who survive on fast food and convenience foods, will struggle to follow the diet, as they need to consume fresh foods and spend some time cooking.  Additionally, people with an allergy to seafood or nuts may find the food choices limiting.  

Conclusion

Calling the Mediterranean Diet a diet program is a misnomer.  It is more than a diet; it is a lifestyle, which promotes a healthier and longer life by eating sensibly and exercising regularly.  Fresh healthy foods, controlled portions and the consumption of mostly healthy fats are the earmarks of an MD.  While weight loss may be a fringe benefit for many participants, the best health rewards will likely be your ability to prevent diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers.  

The information provided here is for educational or informational purposes only.  Dave DePew does not endorse any of the programs/services reviewed here. Before starting a new exercise regime or weight loss plan, talk with your doctor.

Additional Resources

Mediterranean Diet

American Heart Association, http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4644

Mediterranean diet for heart health 

MayoClinic.com, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/mediterranean-diet/cl00011

Popular Diets of the World: The Mediterranean Diet

WebMD, http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/the-mediterranean-diet 

The Mediterranean Diet:  Can it Reduce Your Risk for Heart Disease?Women’s Heart Foundation, http://www.womensheart.org/content/Nutrition/mediterranean.asp

Master Cleanse Diet

Introduction

In 1941, alternative medicine performer Stanley Burroughs introduced the world to the Master Cleanse Diet.  While erroneously referred to as a diet, the program is actually a body and mind detoxification program, which gained popularity in the 1990s when Peter Glickman mentioned the program in his book, Lose Weight, Have More Energy & Be Happier in 10 Days.  

Today, detox dieting is a multi-million dollar international industry that puts forth a variety of claims about its products, including their ability to cleanse the body of years of toxic build-up, boost energy, help with weight loss, improve mental clarity, and even return that glow to your dull skin.  

Several variations and offshoots of the Master Cleanse program are marketed today including the Lemonade Diet, the Maple Syrup Diet, and the 21 Pounds in 21 Days diet.    However, the Master Cleanse remains the most widely recognized.

Promise

The Master Cleanse Diet claims to aid in the removal of harmful toxins trapped in the body, promote weight loss, and cure a variety of other disorders through fasting, and the consumption of lemon-based drinks and laxatives.

Premise

Toxins from pollution, cigarette smoke, alcohol, caffeine, and processed foods build up in our systems and cause a host of health problems including weight gain, energy loss, and dull skin.  You can “cleanse” your body of these toxins and return to good health by fasting and drinking a specific drink combination of fresh lemons, maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and pure water.  

Program Overview

Participants do not eat any solid food during the main cleansing phase.  Supporters recommend that participants remain on the detox plan for at least 10 days; however, some advocate an even longer period of fasting.

There are three stages to the Master Cleanse/Lemonade Diet:

1.      Ease-In (also known as the pre-diet routine) – a three-day preparatory period where you gradually wean yourself off solid foods in preparation for the fasting portion of the program.

2.    Lemonade Diet – during the main phase, participants drink a minimum of 6 to 12 glasses (about 60 ounces) of the lemon concoction, and chase it down with a couple of laxatives a day.  No solid foods are allowed at all.  Participants are instructed to drink the mixture anytime they feel hungry.   At a minimum, 10 days on this phase is suggested, but some people have gone longer (up to a month or more).  

    According to participants, you know it’s time to come off this phase is when the white film that appears on your tongue during detox disappears and it turns pink and healthy again.  This supposedly is a signal that all the toxins have been removed from your body.

    Master Cleanse drink recipe:  2 tablespoons Grade A maple syrup, juice of half a lemon,     1/10th tsp of cayenne pepper, and one quart of spring water.

3.     Ease-Out – once the detoxification is complete, participants are encouraged to spend three days gradually returning to a healthier, more natural diet.  Over the course of those three days, participants start by drinking orange juice (Day 1), then juice blends,  soups, and broths (Day 2), and then healthier foods (Day 3).

Plan Strengths

Detox programs such as the Master Cleanse Diet are effective if restricted to just 2 or 3 days.  This abbreviated approach works well in riding the body of toxins, while also providing a psychological boost to any long-term weight loss regimen.  These types of programs are also good at getting people to really think about what they are putting into their bodies, and how they can potentially improve their eating habits.

Plan Weaknesses

The primary criticisms of the Master Cleanse Diet are that it is deficient in providing the necessary proteins, vitamins, and minerals needed. Additionally, vital electrolytes are lost.  Side effects and symptoms experienced, whether a result of the program or ridding the body of toxins is often severe.  Headaches, fatigue, vomiting, and nausea are commonly cited occurrences.  

Furthermore, there is no empirical or scientific evidence that supports this approach as an effective weight loss program.  Temporary weight loss is definitely assured, given the severe restriction in caloric intake, but over the long term, weight loss cannot be sustained.  Many people report regaining any weight loss.  

Conclusion

The Master Cleanse is not recommended solely as a way to lose weight and keep it off over the long term. In fact, there are much safer ways to lose weight without potentially incurring any long-term health risks.  However, a short-term detoxification program can be effective in cleansing the body of toxins, and setting yourself up to move forward toward embracing a healthier lifestyle.  

The information provided here is for educational or informational purposes only.  Dave DePew does not endorse any of the programs/services reviewed here. Before starting a new exercise regime or weight loss plan, talk with your doctor.

Additional Resources

Master Cleanse Diet, www.mastercleanse.org

The Lemonade Diet, www.lemonadediet.com

Modified Detox Diets Can Help With Weight Loss, CBS4com, http://cbs4.com/health/detox.diets.weight.2.706497.html

Detoxing: In pursuit of a body that’s pure, by Hilary MacGregor  http://www.projo.com/health/content/lb_detox_02-04-07_IB3JLKK.50def6d.html 

Liquid Diet

Introduction

There definitely is no shortage of liquid diet plans out there today.  Considering that consumers spend over $1 billion a year on these types of diet plans, business continues to boom as consumers search for that quick weight loss fix.  Unfortunately, these programs may provide temporary weight loss, but the slew of accompanying health problems does not make them a healthy option for permanent weight loss.

Promise

You can lose weight by replacing meals with a convenient diet drink.

Premise

This approach to weight loss is based on the idea of meal replacement.  Shakes or drinks take the place of a balanced meal.  

Program Overview

This is a rather extreme way to restrict caloric intake.  Depending on the product, participants either partially or fully replace meals and snacks with some form of liquid substitute, typically in the form of a tea, juice, or shake.   Some plans suggest drinking the shakes/drinks for only one to two meals, then eating a sensible dinner.  Others require that the participant drink only shakes and eat no food for a specified period.  

Most liquid diet programs consist of anywhere from a two-week to three-month fasting period of liquid shakes, followed by some type of refueling stage (learning how to switch over to eating sensible meals), and then a maintenance stage (eating sensibly on your own without support).  Again, these programs can vary greatly so participants need to really dig into the specifics of each program, and would definitely benefit from discussing with a physician and dietician before undertaking.  

Liquid diets are sold over the counter, as well as under the medical supervision of a doctor. Each plan varies, placing its own unique “spin” on its product.  It’s probably therefore not surprising that some of these plans are more effective than others.

Variations of liquid diet programs include Ultra Slim Fast, Optifast, Medifast, HMR, Slender Now Thick Shake, and the Master Cleanse program.  

Plan Strengths

With most liquid diet plans, short-term weight loss will generally occur in most people.  Considering the severe restriction of calories and the body’s immediate ability to begin burning already-digested fat on tap, this outcome is pretty much a foregone conclusion. 

In cases of extreme obesity and under the supervision of a physician, liquid diets have proven successful for weight loss.  Generally, the more obese a participant is, the more weight is lost.  Researchers have also found that diet plans that include both food and liquids can assist overweight people in controlling the number of calories they eat, helping them to keep the weight off for several years.

Plan Weaknesses

The majority of liquid diets on the market are not suitable for long-term weight loss.  As mentioned, there is definitely not a problem in losing weight in the short term, but keeping it off is!  Liquid diets are not recommended as a long-term weight loss solution and for good reason.  Your body cannot survive and thrive on so few calories, and the lack of vital nutrients needed from eating a balanced diet.

The loss of vital nutrients has a significant impact on health.  Most liquid diets only provide 36 percent of recommended fiber and only 18 of 23 amino acids.  Furthermore, with only 400 to 800 calories allowed a day, participants can expect to experience more than a few serious side effects such as fatigue, dizziness, hair loss, muscle cramps, anemia, constipation, gallstones, and even heart damage.  Did I also mention the loss of lean body mass from a lack of protein?

Liquid diets have also been associated with various cardiac problems such as cardio arrhythmia, and individuals suffering from diabetes have had to struggle with dramatic fluctuating blood sugar levels resulting from the severe restriction of calories.  These diets are not for everyone, especially people suffering from pre-existing health problems, or women that are pregnant or nursing.  

Depending on the plan, it may or may not include a recommendation for exercise.  Ironically, though, given the severe restriction on calories, participants may find it difficult to maintain the level of energy needed to even exercise.

Conclusion

Liquid diets have always been a popular fad diet approach.  The idea of rapidly losing weight appeals to most individuals looking for that “quick fix”.  Unfortunately, these programs are generally not safe to undertake for any long period, unless under the watchful eye of a physician.  The immediate weight loss is definitely alluring, but when balanced with the potential health risks and the likelihood that any weight loss will reappear (along with probably a few extra pounds) in the long run, liquid diets really are not a safe or effective option for weight loss.

The information provided here is for educational or informational purposes only.  Dave DePew does not endorse any of the programs/services reviewed here. Before starting a new exercise regime or weight loss plan, talk with your doctor.

Additional Resources

Liquid Diets for Losing Weight, http://www.weightlossforall.com/diet-liquid-diets.htm

Mayo:  Clear Liquid Diet, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/clear-liquid-diet/MY00742 

Liquid Diet, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liquid_diet 

The 3-Day Diet

Introduction

The internet has been instrumental in extending the shelf life of this particular fad diet.  Since 1985, this diet has floated around, rearing its ugly head, and spawned a variety of 3-day diet approaches, many of which are no better than this one.  

Promise

Loose up to 10 pounds in just three days.

Premise

By following a very specific, regimented diet plan for 3 days, then returning to normal eating for 4 or 5 days, the body will experience a unique metabolic reaction that will boost fat burning and result in weight loss.  

Program Overview

To lose the promised ten pounds in just ten days, participants are required to follow the 3-day diet meal plan exactly – no variation and no overeating/under eating.  After three days, participants can return to their normal eating activities for four to five days.  They can then return to the 3-day plan, as many times as they want, provided they always include that four to five day normal eating period as a break in between.

Day 1 

Breakfast:  Black coffee or tea, with 1-2 packets Sweet & Low or Equal, 1/2 grapefruit or juice, and 1 piece toast with 1 tablespoon peanut butter

Lunch:  1/2 cup tuna, 1 piece toast, Black coffee or tea, with 1-2 packets Sweet & Low or Equal

Dinner: 3 ounces any lean meat or chicken, 1 cup green beans, 1 cup carrots, 1 apple, 1 cup regular vanilla ice cream

Day 2 

Breakfast: Black coffee or tea, with 1-2 packets Sweet & Low or Equal, 1 egg,  1/2 banana,  1 piece toast

Lunch: 1 cup cottage cheese or tuna,  8 regular saltine crackers

Dinner:  2 beef franks, 1 cup broccoli or cabbage, 1/2 cup carrots, 1/2 banana, 1/2 cup regular vanilla ice cream

Day 3 

Breakfast: Black coffee or tea, with 1-2 packets Sweet & Low or Equal, 5 regular saltine crackers, 1 ounce cheddar cheese, 1 apple

Lunch: Black coffee or tea, with 1-2 packets Sweet & Low or Equal, 1 boiled egg, 1 piece toast

Dinner: 1 cup tuna, 1 cup carrots, 1 cup cauliflower, 1 cup melon, 1/2 cup regular vanilla ice cream

In addition to its strict daily food prescription, participants drink 4 cups of water or non-caloric drinks daily.

Plan Strengths

I guess we should throw this plan a bone and say it at least encourages the consumption of water, vegetables, and lean meats.  Weight loss will also probably result given the severe restriction of calories; however, it will be water weight and not fat – no one can lose 10 pounds of fat in just three days.  If only that was true!

Proponents of the diet claim that in addition to weight loss, participants will enjoy increased energy, a reduction in allergies, healthier skin, and a reduction in allergies.  Unfortunately, there is no literature, studies, or testimonials available to support these claims.  I guess we are just supposed to take their word for it.

Plan Weaknesses

Besides the obvious fact that there are no supporting studies (or even a book), that explains how this diet increases the body’s metabolic rate, this diet is by no means a comprehensive approach to weight loss.  It does nothing to educate participants about good food choices, and it fails to address the need for consistent physical activity.   All participants get is a 3-day meal plan – that’s it.  

By returning to “normal” eating habits during that four to five-day break, participants will revert to the same eating habits that contributed to their weight gain in the first place and fail to break the weight gain cycle.  

Sure, participants will lose weight, because they have reduced caloric intake to less than 1,000 calories, but it won’t be fat and it won’t stay off.  

Conclusion

This is a classic example of a yo-yo diet that fails to provide a game plan for healthy long-term weight loss.  For those wanting to lose a little water weight, this diet will probably do the trick, but proceed cautiously.  Like most fad diets, you are likely to find yourself gaining instead of losing weight over the long term.  Your best bet is to look elsewhere for a healthier weight loss alternative because this diet is not sustainable.

The information provided here is for educational or informational purposes only.  Dave DePew does not endorse any of the programs/services reviewed here.  

Additional Resources

The 3-Day Diet, WebMD, www.webmd.com/diet/features/the-3-day-diet