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Expert questions if ‘fad diets’ really work

In an opinion-editorial, Maria Baghdoyan, Corporate Nutritionist, Nestlé Middle East discusses the impact of obesity on our health, fad diets, and healthy eating. “We live in a region with triple burden; where obesity, malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies can occur all at the same time. The main reason for this is mainly due to consuming foods high in calories and very low in nutrients essential for the body, which causes excessive weight gain with deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals.”, Baghdoyan underlines.

Some of the risks connected with overweight and obesity include high blood pressure; Type 2 Diabetes; cholesterol; depression; sleep apnea; and heart diseases. According to the expert, weight loss therapy for adults should be based on the following components:

  • Calorie-controlled balanced diet (ensuring a variety between all food groups)
  • Having 5 small meals instead of 3 main ones
  • Increasing fiber in take by having more wholegrains, fruits and vegetables to help feel fuller for longer
  • Limiting high fat, high sugar intake to the minimum
  • Drinking plenty of water (8-12 cups) to help your body flush toxins out and also increase satiety levels to avoid overeating
  • Regular physical activity (45 – 60 minutes everyday)
  • Behavior therapy (such as recognizing triggers for eating or learning to identify what holds you back from making lifestyle changes)

On the other hand, FAD diets often promise intense, and sometimes unrealistic weight loss results. Regardless of them actually working or not; they are very hard to sustain in the long run. Here are some examples of widely known FAD diets with their pros and cons, Baghdoyan continues:

Developed by the late Dr. Robert C. Atkins, this diet is

very high-protein one and allows virtually no carbohydrate, particularly during the initial stages. The pros include promotion of rapid weight loss; focus on high protein intake, which can help feel fuller for longer; not as time consuming and expensive as other diets. The cons include allowing high consumption of saturated fats, which may increase the risk of heart diseases; offering a short-term solution to weight loss and being very restrictive in nature, which may cause to miss out on essential vitamins and minerals the body needs.

Furthermore, the Paleo diet is mainly derived from foods consumed by Stone Age cavemen and people of the Paleolithic age. The main foods allowed in the Paleo diet are fruits, vegetables, roots and meat, excluding any form of dairy products like milk, cheese or yogurt as well as processed foods. Because the diet is totally unprocessed; you may never feel bloated after meals and the risk of having digestive problems is minimal. However, calcium deficiency can occur due to the lack of dairy products in this diet.

Very Low Energy Diets (VLED) or alternatively Very Low Calorie Diets (VLCD) are dietary preparations that provide all nutritional requirements together with less than 800 kcal (<3300 kJ) per day. Very low energy diets are also low in carbohydrates which reduces appetite. VLEDs have been shown to be effective in the management of obesity. They have also been associated with improvements in insulin sensitivity, blood pressure, serum triglycerides, sleep apnoea and glycaemic control in adults with Type 2 diabetes.

How does VLCD help treat obesity?

Ketosis: your body starts burning fat instead of carbohydrates for energy

Nutrition: Low calorie meals that include all the nutrients your body needs

Schedule: Measures and ready-to-prepare meals that help you eat only when and what you need

Behavioural change: a customized program that helps you create a healthier lifestyle and include physical activity

Baghdoyan concludes, “Eventually; whatever option you go with to lose weight; make sure it is done the right and healthy way to ensure your body doesn’t miss out on nutrients that help you perform your daily functions, and ultimately have a better quality of life in the long run.”