Summer is upon once again, of course that means beach and pool time, which means less clothing and bathing suits. It also means Fad Diets, Quick Weight Loss Schemes, and every other diet gimmick imaginable.
With over 70% of Americans either overweight or obese, there are very few who don’t dread having to strip down in public settings to reveal their less than perfect physiques at the pool or beach. Those that don’t dread this yearly ritual are either in awesome shape or past the point of caring what they look like.
For the rest of the population, it means doing everything possible to “shape up” and drop 10+ lbs ASAP. Obviously most Americans have way more than 10 lbs to drop but most people can notice a weight loss of 10 lbs so it seems to be a pretty universal goal. Of course, both the seasonal desire to shed some fat and that magic 10 lb. goal, are well-known to the purveyors of diet aids and books. This periodic enhanced obsession with fat loss repeats itself every year (as well as mini versions a couple of more times a year). This is a major time for those in the business to make some money.
So what are the latest “Diet Miracles” out there? This week’s blog post will provide a quick review.
- Detoxification programs (typically 3 to 14 days). These have been around forever and have gotten more popular over the past several years. With all the media discussion of celebs going to “detox” along with the steady stream if info about how toxic our environment is, the word detox / detoxification has become more main stream and even a little chic. While there is definite truth to the assertion that most people’s bodies are over-burdened with toxins, that does not mean that a 3-14 day juice type fast is going to do very much to detoxify them thereby helping them to lose weight. When you understand the various detoxification pathways of the body, you’d realize how utterly simplistic such an assertion is. Any weight loss will be the result of reduced caloric intake vs. the magical detoxification benefits of the elixir du jour.
- Fasting; intermittent fasting; 5:2 diet. Systematic fasting has been used as a weight loss, weight management, and health restoration strategy forever. Can it work or help? Absolutely! It reduces caloric intake thereby creating a calorie deficit forcing mobilization of stored fat. Is it the best way to lose or maintain weight? Probably not, at least not for certain metabolic types who don’t do well missing meals or those whose bodies tend to down-regulate the conversion of T4 (the relatively inactive form of thyroid hormone that is primarily secreted by the thyroid for circulation throughout the body) to T3 (the more active form of thyroid hormone in the tissues). I don’t recommend it without proper coaching or taking the time to learn how to do it properly. Also, fasting decreases leptin levels which triggers a very potent stimulation of appetite.
- Raspberry ketones. This supplement was last years miracle per Dr. Oz and others. It is believed to increase Adiponectin levels (a hormone in the body) that enhances the fat cell’s ability to breakdown fats and produce energy. It is also believed to improve Insulin, Blood Sugar, and Triglyceride levels in the body. It may in fact have a positive impact as part of a balanced diet and exercise plan, however, it is unlikely to provide long-term, significant benefits without concurrent lifestyle modifications.
- Green coffee bean extract. Green coffee beans are simply coffee beans that have not been roasted. Roasting breaks down a compound called chlorogenic acid, therefore green coffee beans contain chlorogenic acid and roasted beans do not. The chlorogenic acid is believed to have an effect on limiting glucose absorption, which in turn helps to reduce weight. Look for products containing at least 45% chlorogenic acid (aka GCA / green coffee antioxidant or Svetol). Some research does support that it can enhance weight loss as part of an overall diet & exercise program.
- HCA (from garcinia cambogia). This supplement has been popular in weight loss circles for well over a decade. There is some indication that it can help as part of a balanced diet and exercise program. There seems to be a few beneficial mechanisms by which HCA / garcinia cambogia works. First, it may act as a fat blocker (inhibiting the formation of more fat). It also seems to aid as an appetite suppressant. Next, it seems to target belly fat, helping to reduce it. Finally, it may positively impact serontonin levels (thereby helping to balance mood swings and minimize feeling of stress and depression and the “stress eating” they can cause). One more thing, it seems to help modulate cortisol levels (elevated cortisol is associated with increased belly fat among other things).
- Chitosan (reduced fat absorption). There’s some clinical data that chitosan may help to reduce body fat by inhibiting the absorption of ingested fat. Be that as it may, it is best reserved for special occasions (once or twice a week at most) when you might have difficulty avoiding eating more fat than you’d like. Chronic use could lead to absorption problems with healthy fats.
- CLA (conjugated linoleic acid). Studies have shown a statistically significant improvement in body composition with regular CLA use (a reduction in total body fat and an increase in lean body mass). The effect is quite modest and takes weeks to be noticeable but it can be of benefit as part of a balance diet and exercise regimen. The recommended amount is 3.2 -4 g/day, additional amounts do not seem to add any additional benefits. The studies showed an approx 90 gram fat loss per week (about 1 lb in 5 weeks) and approx. 1% increased growth in targeted lean body mass per week.
- The Hollywood 48-Hour Miracle Diet (another of the endless VLCDs out there promoted by yet another self-proclaimed nutrition Guru and Trainer of the Stars). Don’t waste your time or money.
- Saffron Extract. Appetite suppressant via stimulation of neurotransmitter release. This can obviously aid in a balanced diet and exercise regimen if appetite is part of your problem. Oz recommends Satiereal saffron extract 88-90 mg 2x/day. I’d venture to guess that the effects will be quite mild and short-lived. People eat too much junk and don’t exercise enough. Appetite does play a very significant role for many people, for most, however, it is more about poor food and lifestyle choices. If yours is primarily due to uncontrolled appetite, something like Saffron Extract may be exactly what you need.
- HCG injections and drops (homeopathic). These were all the rage a year or so ago…so what happened to them? They were largely a gimmick! I know, I know, that’s just shocking. There may have been some benefit to them BUT most of the weight loss came from a “VLCD” (a Very Low Calorie Diet). The hCG was supposed to make the VLCD easier to handle but most of those I spoke to could not confirm this. Additionally this program was quite pricey which of course accentuates the placebo effect.
- Fat burning injections. These were also popular a year or more ago. They consisted of Vit B12, B6, methionine, inositol and choline. Some people reported positive results but there is no solid scientific evidence to support this as a reliable weight loss regimen. Once again, even though most people don’t want to hear it, there’s no magic bullet when it comes to weight loss and management. At best there are some supportive elements.
- Paleo / Paleolithic Diet. Gaining in popularity, largely fueled by the Cross-Fit boom, I’m afraid that this isn’t the holy Grail that it’s been touted to be. There are far too many holes in the whole Paleo approach to address briefly here. There are also some sound components to it. What is not sound, in my opinion, is to “throw out the baby with the bath water” so to speak. The Paleo approach posits that the Paleolithic / caveman diet was the healthiest and best diet because we evolved on it over millions of years. Further, the root of all dietary evils has to do with modern agricultural methods which is why all “modern” or new foods should be avoided. Well, although we certainly don’t fully know what cavemen really ate, we can be pretty sure they didn’t eat meat, pork, and poultry raised via current practices. They also didn’t wear shoes or drive cars. I’ll go into the whole Paleo issue in greater detail in the future but for now I’m absolutely sure that simply eating Paleo will not solve our overweight and obesity crisis.
- The Gluten-Free Diet. Those with gluten sensitivities and/or intolerance will do better avoiding gluten, there’s nothing earth-shattering about that. Will avoiding gluten help everyone to lose weight? Possibly, but probably not. Gluten is not all bad. It is simply a protein that occurs in wheat and several related grains. In my opinion, the main problem is simply that most of us have over-used and abused gluten-containing grains. The big food manufacturers have certainly done their best to push ungodly amounts of gluten our way… and most of us have been only too willing to eat it up. I believe that the vast majority of those with gluten problems have sensitivities from over-consumption / abuse vs. intolerance due to genetic and immunological mechanisms. The bottom line is that we could all benefit from eating a balance, varied diet that is primarily composed of vegetables, fruits, quality proteins, seeds, and nuts with only modest amounts of grains (that have been minimally processed). Wheat has been called the staff of life for a reason. Our civilization as we know it would likely not exist today without it. Gluten can be an irritant for some but it has also helped to nourish countless people over the past several thousand years.
- The Vegan Diet. Are animal products the cause of most people’s weight problems? Not really although those who choose to over-consume animal products are certainly at increased risks for not only obesity but several other diseases as well. Diet and weight loss are both a very simple and very complex issues. There are definite advantages and disadvantages to consuming animal products as well as living on a strictly plant-based diet. I believe that it is possible to be quite healthy following either regimen, however, I’ve worked with many people from both camps and some were leaner and healthier while others were fatter and sicker. There are many more important variables to consider than simply whether or not they chose a vegan or an animal based diet.
Your comments, suggestions, and questions are invited. We can explore any of the above or some other rapid weight loss program that is of interest in future posts.