Junkfood Science: More of the same

May 08, 2007

More of the same

Consumer Reports has just rated the top diet books and plans using a panel of diet experts and claimed to find the “strategies that work.” This sentence, however, says it all about the newest crop of diet best sellers:

None of these books has yet been put to the acid test of a large clinical trial.

The article, “New diet winners,” goes on to say:

We’ll also brief you on the real progress that scientists have made in identifying eating patterns and behavioral tricks that help at least some dieters cut calories without feeling too deprived....Whether those insights will translate into a widespread improvement in weight-loss success remains to be seen. But if you’re looking to shed pounds, there’s some solid science on which to base your choice of a diet plan or book, or create a do-it-yourself approach.

But then, in the very next paragraph, they say:

The basic formula for losing weight has not changed: Consume fewer calories than you burn — but 500 fewer every day, to lose about a pound a week. Not an easy task, however, or why would legions of people try, fail, and fail again in their weight-loss efforts?

None of the diets, even the highest rated that had clinical trials behind them, resulted in much weight loss — 10 pounds was the best. A diet was deemed a success by Consumer Reports if 25% of participants had lost at least 10% of their starting weight at the one year mark. Of course, as we’ve read, the Federal Trade Commission’s scientific expert committee recently concluded that no weight loss method has ever been proven to be effective long-term and that virtually all weight is regained within five years. It’s the rule, not the exception. Short-term diet studies under 5 years in length are uncredible and merely dieting stunts.

“None of these will work for everyone, but you should be able to find some that will work for you,” said Consumer Reports. Which diet finished at the top of their ratings? Their top “winner” was the Volumetrics diet. This is as good as it gets, which as we’ve seen isn’t all that good.

Their diet secrets offered the same advice as has been recommended for the past century, but one suggestion provided further demonstration that dieting wasn’t about improving health and nutrition. “Bore yourself thin,” they advise. “Since variety stimulates the appetite,” they claim, “the more monotonous your diet, the less you’ll eat.” This, of course, goes against all nutritional research and guidelines which consistently recommend a varied diet to help ensure the full range of nutrients to prevent deficiencies.

Reading their article leaves the impression that the diet industry is hopping, skipping and jumping to find something solid to stand on anymore.

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