Monthly Board Report - April 2001
Weight Loss Miracles- Is There Such a Thing?
By Julie Lenk, Registered Dietitian
Every time we turn around there seems to be a new diet promising a weight loss miracle. The most popular weight loss diets over the past few years have been the low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets such as Enter The Zone, Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution and Protein Power. Despite the fact that the authors of these fad diets have no scientific evidence to back up their weight loss theories, they have still caught the attention of many people.
What is the theory that drives these diets?
Authors of diets such as Enter The Zone, Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution and Protein Power claim that carbohydrates cause weight gain. They state that foods high in carbohydrate trigger the release of excess amounts of insulin, which in turn stores carbohydrate as fat. The truth is, insulin is the hormone responsible for the body’s blood sugar regulation; therefore, it is a normal and necessary response to eating. There is absolutely no scientific evidence to support the theory that carbohydrates or insulin on its own cause weight gain. In fact, studies suggest that a high carbohydrate intake is associated with lower body weight and lower rates of cancer and heart disease. Although diet plays a role in body weight and health, physical activity and genetics are also involved.
Do these diets lead to weight loss?
In many cases the low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets do lead to dramatic weight loss within the first few days, but there is a catch. Weight that is lost quickly will be regained quickly once a person starts eating their usual diet. The initial decrease in weight occurs because of an overall decrease of food intake compared to the diet a person normally eats. With this decreased intake, the body loses muscle (stored protein is used for energy), water and valuable minerals (leading to dehydration). Once a person starts to eat normally again, the body will devour and store the lost water, and will use protein to re-build muscle, resulting in weight gain. This type of rapid weight loss can be very harmful to the body.
There are many serious risk factors associated with low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets. One of the most serious risks is the build up of ketones in the body. Ketones are produced by the body when the muscles are not getting enough carbohydrate to use for energy. This build up of ketones can put the body in a state called “ketosis” causing dehydration, headaches, fainting, irritability, bad breath and kidney problems.
Many high protein foods are also high in fat. Eating a high fat diet leads to an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.
Consuming a diet high in protein places extra stress on the kidneys. This may result in kidney problems, as well as an increased loss of calcium in the urine.
Carbohydrates Are Essential
Carbohydrates are our body’s main source of energy and are essential for good health. For any activity we perform, from breathing to running, we need the energy that comes from carbohydrate-containing foods.
Carbohydrate foods such as pasta, whole grains, rice, fruits and vegetables contain many disease-fighting compounds including fibre, as well as vitamins and minerals. In addition to energy, carbohydrates help control cholesterol, promote good bowel habits and contribute to the feeling of fullness after a meal.
How To Manage Your Weight
The bottom line is: Diets don’t work! The secret to losing weight and staying healthy is to make gradual lifestyle changes that you can stick to over time. Try to become more active and eat a variety of healthy and delicious foods that contain carbohydrates, protein and fat.
Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating has some great guidelines for healthy food choices as well as recommended serving sizes…and it is FREE! Call or stop by your health unit for a copy.
If you are confused about fad diets or would like more information on healthy body weights call the Leeds, Grenville & Lanark District Health Unit at 613-345-5685 or 1-800-660-5853 and ask to speak to a Registered Dietitian. Or visit our website at www.healthunit.org.