Weight loss

Fad diets add to obesity

Zone default image But Brits try anything to lose weight

It seems that Britons will try anything to lose weight, except for eating healthily and exercising more that is.

But by 2050, nine out of ten adults will either be overweight or obese, unless we change our attitudes to food and dieting, according to Professor Chris Hawkey, President of the British Society of Gastroenterologists (BSG).

“The problem facing society is not the content of our diet but it’s the quantity we are consuming and the consequential impact of obesity," he said.

And our obsession with fad diets which promise rapid weight loss in the short term end up making us heavier in the long run.

"Food has been shrouded in myths and fairytales since time immemorial as people argue over what is good for you, what should be avoided or eaten to your heart’s content.

"But what’s important is to recognise that despite the popularity of fad diets, we are losing a grip on the fight with obesity.

"We need to do away with quirky diets and get people to realise what will keep them healthy in the long run.”

A survey carried out for the BSG found that 1 in 20 women would be prepared to try the Atkins diet to lose weight although only 2% of Brits think the diet is good for your health. And only 65% of the women questioned said they would increase their exercise levels to lose weight.

Professor Hawkey, who will present the results at the Gastro 2009 conference being held in London this week, will also criticise many of the fad diets which can help people lose weight quickly, but ultimately lead to weight gain which he says we should avoid.

Food fads from the past:

  • Rawism: eating only uncooked food including the Tiger diet, reportedly followed by Mel Gibson
  • The Hallelujah diet: eating fruit and seeds from trees on the basis of Genesis 1.29
  • The Hollywood Grapefruit diet: claims that grapefruit contained a fat burning enzyme
  • The Atkins diet: based on the argument that low carbohydrate diets have a nutritional advantage because they stimulate gluconeogenesis from protein which burns more calories

How to spot a fad diet

  • Usually sold as a book containing testimonials, rather than scientific evidence
  • Always promises rapid results
  • Often recommends "fat burning" foods e.g. grapefruit
  • Rarely recommends consulting your doctor or a registered dietician (as you should)
  • Often features a severely restricted diet e.g. avoiding entire food groups
  • May recommend eating a single food e.g. cabbage
  • Recommends a "unique" combination of foods which lead to weight loss
  • Promotes how the diet affects your appearance - health a low priority

Take home message - if it sounds too good to be true then it is.

This article was published on Mon 23 November 2009

Image © © isatori - Fotolia.com

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