Search the Healthy Living Web Site
This Week's Discussion Topics
Message Board |
About Us |
Health Issues |
Member Photo Gallery |
Our Stories |
Recommended Software |
Weight Maintenance |
Site Map |
Bury These Books!
The latest fad diet books claim cutting out sugar and most carbohydrates is the easy way to lose weight. Here's why that's nothing but sweet talk.
Check the diet section of any bookstore and you'll find a small-town library's worth of new books, all selling the same weight-loss line: Stop eating sugar and most carbohydrates and the pounds will melt away.
And they do sell. For months, carbohydrate-bashing books, such as The Zone, Sugar Busters!, Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution, The 5-Day Miracle Diet, and The Carbohydrate Addicts's Diet have taken turns at or near the top of the best-seller lists.
This isn't the first time the anticarb forces have held sway. Diet trends tend to go in cycles and two decades ago, books such as The Scarsdale Diet and Dr's Atkins Diet Revolution also promoted low-carbohydrate and high-protein/high-fat diets similar to the current crop. The earlier books faded when, as with all fad diets, devotees found they couldn't keep the pounds off.
While the details may vary, the primary thesis in these new books is the same: Avoid foods with a high glycemic index, including processed foods made with refined sugar or white flour, as well as pasta, bagels, white potatoes, carrots, corn and others. That's because these foods are quickly broken down into glucose by the body. This triggers production of the hormone insulin, which is needed to absorb the glucose. But too much insulin, the books warn, also inhibits the absorption of fat. So if you eat too much of these forbidden foods, that excess fat will find its way to your hips, thighs, and buttocks.
"The science has never been clinically proven," says Gerald Reaven, M.D., prefessor of medicine (active emeritus) at Stanford University School of Medicine and developer of the theory of insulin resistance. "Too much insulin doesn't cause weight gain, calories do." Extra insulin can, however, increase cravings, which may result in consuming extra calories and lead to weight gain.
But while highly glycemic foods may cause problems for people at risk of adult-onset diabetes, Reaven contends most healthy people are perfectly capable of handling any temporary spike in insulin that follows, say, a dish of spaghetti marinara.
That's not the only objection Reaven and others have. Here's a look at these books' more egregious claims.
But if they're so scientifically wanting, why are these books so popular? One reason is they will help you lose weight--at least in the short run.
First, any high-protein diet will cause the kidneys to work overtime, which requires a lot of water. So any initial loss is mostly water weight. And second, these are surprisingly low-calorie diets. When Rosenbloom analized three days' worth of Sugar Busters! menus, she found they averaged only about 1,200 calories per day--much less than the daily recommendation of 1,900-2,200 calories for an adult female.
"You could eat 1,200 calories of pure sugar per day and still lose weight," she says. The diet is also dangerously low in a number of vital nutrients, including iron, calcium, vitamin A and folate.
But there is another reason why these books are so popular. It's the simplicity of their message. All you need to do to lose weight, they purr, is avoid sugar and simple carbohydrates. No more counting calories, worrying about fat, or working out at the health club.
"People are tired of general messages," says Anne Dubner, R.D., a nutrition consultant in private practice in Houston. "They want a quick fix. But although they appear to get that quick fix, it's a dangerous risk in the long run--it can increase the risk of heart disease and increase blood sugar, which is a danger to people with diabetes."
Soothing the Sweet Tooth
Here's how the experts suggest you control sugar cravings:
Source: Weight Watchers Magazine November/December 1998
Copyright © 1998-2002 SLM & Healthy Living