February 13, 2012

As obesity rates continue to climb, so do the number of "diet" books. A variety of approaches have been suggested to lose weight; some are well researched, while others are not. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) has published reviews by Registered Dietitians of several controversial diet books. Below are brief extracts from some of these reviews with a particular focus on carbohydrates.

The No Crave Diet

By Dr. Penny Kendall-Reed and Dr. Stephen Reed

RD Review - Bottom Line: The authors' own warning that during Phase 1 dieters may feel hungry, light-headed, irritable or nauseous seems to undermine the whole "No-Crave" premise. I would not recommend this book.

Highlights: "This book explains what, how and when to eat in order to reduce your desire to snack; arms you with a host of tips for switching off food cravings in any situation; reveals how managing stress, sleep and exercise will reduce cravings...Written by an orthopedic surgeon and a naturopathic doctor -- specialties not generally associated with weight-loss or nutrition expertise -- this book centers on the philosophy that certain carbohydrates, even high-fiber, healthy ones, raise blood sugar and will increase cravings. The first phase lasts six to eight weeks and limits carbohydrates, except for vegetables. No snacking is allowed during this phase and the authors warn that during Phase 1, dieters may feel hungry, light-headed, irritable or nauseous. Phase 2 is slightly more flexible and re-introduces some healthy carbohydrates. Phase 1 is unnecessarily extreme and many nutritious, low-calorie, high-fiber foods are not allowed or severely limited...foods such as legumes, beets and waxy beans are limited to two tablespoons every other day, as the authors claim they're too sugary... Phase 2 promotes an unnecessarily complicated "carbohydrates reintroduction order." Read the full Academy review.

The 4 Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat–Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman

By Timothy Ferriss

RD Review - Bottom Line: Most who attempt The 4-Hour Body will likely lose weight as they would when following any lower-calorie program that includes physical activity. However, strict deprivation diets are not the answer to lifelong health and happiness. Long-term success includes learning how to eat the foods we love as part of a healthy diet.

Highlights: "The diet plan, referred to as the Slow-Carb diet, claims to teach the reader how to lose 20 pounds in 30 days without exercise. The Slow-Carb diet encourages the consumption of lean proteins, legumes and green vegetables... It is easy to see how the simple plan may attract some readers who prefer simplicity and have a difficult time preparing meals or do not enjoy cooking.... Ferriss describes the changes dieters will make as being "small changes" although for many that will not be the case. The lack of variety may leave many dieters bored. Ferriss also fails to discuss the idea that taste is the major reason why we choose the food we eat. The reality of long-term behavior change, which most often requires identifying individual strategies for success and learning to eat the foods we love within the scope of a healthy diet, is also overlooked. ... While Ferriss does refer to scientific research, he is not a qualified health professional and much of what he discusses is contradictory..." Read the full Academy review.

The 10-Step Nutrition Plan to Help Treat Your Child's Autism, Asperger's or ADHD

By Elizabeth Strickland

RD Review - Bottom Line: This is a well thought-out review of the application of nutrition therapy in the treatment of children with autism and related disorders. Overall diet quality, focus on whole nutrient-rich foods, filling nutritional gaps with appropriate supplements and determining causes of feeding problems should be addressed before attempting more alternative approaches to treatment.

Highlights: "This is not a traditional diet plan but rather an approach for dealing with nutrition concerns and nutrition therapy strategies for children with autism. It includes 10 steps for spotting and addressing nutrition issues. The author recommends completing the steps in the order outlined; however, not all steps are needed for all kids if parents find symptoms and behaviors improve with the basic steps. ... The author does include scientific evidence and rationale for recommendations where it is available. However, there is little research in this area of nutrition therapy. The author points out the lack of scientific evidence for many of the dietary and supplement practices promoted to parents of autistic children. Unnecessarily limiting foods from the diet may put these kids at nutrition risk and supplementing above the normal recommended amounts may lead to toxicity or over supplementation..." Read the full Academy review.

The 17 Day Diet

By Mike Moreno, MD

RD Review - Bottom Line: This is another diet that will add more confusion to the already confused, fat and malnourished country. Restrictive meal plans, no fruit after 2 p.m., demonizing food and the low calorie levels of this diet are a perfect combination for a good binge. Chocolate chip cookie lovers are at risk. Of course, you will lose weight by lowering your caloric intake and restricting food; however, you will be left with few options.

Highlights: "The 17 Day Diet is based on the idea of metabolic confusion, also known as calorie shifting...altering the way you eat every few days or weeks...to lose up to 10 to 15 pounds in the first 17 days. The 17 Day Diet focuses on clean eating, which means no sugar, no processed food and no fried food... Carbohydrates are restricted after 2 p.m... The science behind [the author`s] theories is not strong. There is no evidence you can "confuse your metabolism" to prevent plateaus by increasing and decreasing calories and changing the foods you eat... Of course, you will lose weight by lowering your caloric intake and restricting food; however, you will be left with few options. This diet does not quite teach participants how to incorporate all food groups at all times, thus it may not be a long-term lifestyle approach..." Read the full Academy review.

The Dukan Diet

By Dr. Pierre Dukan

RD Review - Bottom Line: Although The Dukan Diet is likely to help readers shed unwanted weight, the highly restrictive nature of the Attack and Cruise phases raise health concerns that make it difficult to recommend this diet.

Highlights: "The Dukan Diet claims it's the ideal diet for people who want to lose weight quickly but can't be bothered with counting calories or weighing their food. The author believes fast results are the key to weight-loss motivation. His high-protein, low-calorie plan is divided into four phases. The first two phases are geared toward helping readers shed pounds quickly, while the second two are designed to maintain weight loss permanently... The goal of the Attack phase is dramatic weight loss of four to 10 pounds in seven days or less. During this phase, readers eat a pure protein diet... The Cruise Phase, readers alternates pure protein days with days of pure protein and non-starchy vegetables until they reach their "true" or goal weight... The Dukan Diet may not be the healthiest or most versatile plan... By restricting carbohydrates, The Dukan Diet forces the body and brain to use fat for fuel. This pushes the body into a state of ketosis, which has been linked to health problems such as kidney damage and gout..." Read the full Academy review.

Note: All material taken from Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Consumer Diet and Lifestyle Book Reviews