* Carbohydrate Addict’s LifeSpan Program (Drs. Richard and Rachael Heller)
Premise: Richard and Rachael Heller claim that an excess of insulin, the “hunger hormone,” causes the carbohydrate addict to experience intense and recurring cravings, as well as the heightened ability to store fat. The affected person has a biological condition caused by a hormonal imbalance, which can be corrected by following their program. They advocate a very low carbohydrate diet throughout the daytime, and a single “reward meal” consisting of carbohydrate counterbalanced by vegetable and protein.
Facts: The effects of a low-carbohydrate diet may result in eating high-fat foods and, therefore, increase risk of heart disease, High cholesterol, liver and kidney damage, some cancers, and osteoporosis. How realistic is it never to have fruit or cereal for breakfast or a sandwich for lunch? The authors claim success through testimonial anecdotes and book sales. No scientifically validated studies suggest that this diet works.
* Eat Right 4 Your Type (Dr. Peter D’Adamo)
Premise: The author, Dr. D’Adamo, claims that each blood type has its own unique antigen marker that reacts in negative ways with certain foods, and individuals have varying levels of stomach acidity and digestive enzymes that seem to correlate with blood type. This diet provides a detailed list of foods to eat or avoid, depending on your blood type.
Facts: Although you may find it comforting to have a list of foods to eat or avoid, there’s no scientific evidence that diets should be based on blood type.
* Suzanne Somers’ Get Skinny on Fabulous Food (Suzanne Somers and associates)
Premise: Suzanne Somers - actress turned health-products merchandiser, selling wares from skin care goods to pasta - says that when proteins and carbohydrates are eaten together their enzymes cancel each other out, creating a halt in the digestion process and causing weight gain.
Facts: Reality check - many healthy, naturally occurring foods contain both carbohydrate and protein: nuts, milk, lentils, beans and whole-grain breads. This high-fat diet may put you at increased risk of coronary heart disease, high-cholesterol, liver and kidney damage, some cancers, and osteoporosis. There are no scientific studies to show that this diet works or is safe.
* New Diet Revolution (Robert C. Atkins, M.D.)
Premise: The 1997 book, Dr. Atkins’ NEW Diet Revolution, suggests drastically reducing the intake of dietary carbohydrates to force your body to burn your reserve of stored fat for energy. This results in losing pounds and inches while still eating protein and fat-laden foods. You can eat generous amounts of beef, pork, chicken, eggs and butter.
Facts: The effects of this high-protein diet actually may have you eating foods high in saturated fat, which may affect your blood cholesterol level and increase your risk of heart disease. There are no long-term studies to show that this diet works or is safe.
* Picture Perfect Weight Loss (Dr. Howard M. Shapiro)
Premise: Dr. Shapiro’s series of books feature photographs of food equations to help readers find low-calorie substitutes for the fattening foods that they crave. Pictures reveal that one candy bar contains the same amount of calories as 10 Popsicles. In addition to learning how one food’s calorie content compares with another, readers are presented with correct serving sizes.
Facts: Pictures don’t necessarily translate into action. While not a complete solution, Shapiro’s comparisons may be a starting point to help put the foods you eat into a useful, nutritional perspective.
* Protein Power Lifeplan (Michael R. Eades, M.D., and Mary Dan Eades, M.D.)
Premise: Protein Power Lifeplan, published in 1997, and its proponents claim that the human body has no physical needs for carbohydrates and that they should be severely limited in order to trick your body into burning fat without making you feel hungry. Authors Drs. Michael and Mary Dan Eades make the case that you cut most carbohydrates out of your diet. A few menu choices include smoked salmon and cream cheese omelets, sauteed jumbo shrimp, and double-patty burgers.
Facts: This high-protein diet may result in you eating high-fat foods and, therefore, increase your risk of heart disease, high-cholesterol, liver and kidney damage, some cancers, and osteoporosis. The authors claim success through testimonial anecdotes and book sales. No scientifically validated studies suggest that the Protein Power diet works.
* Revolutionary Weight Control Program (Bob Arnot, M.D.)
Premise: In this diet, foods are considered drugs. Dr. Arnot, former chief medical editor for “NBC Nightly News,” promotes a “feedforward” eating plan that teaches you in what order and at what times of day to eat foods to maximally control your weight, hunger and mood.
Facts: Though foods containing soluble fiber are mentioned, other carbohydrate-containing foods are limited and along with them, their vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. No scientifically validated studies have been conducted on Dr. Arnot’s eating plan. Dr. Arnot’s validation for his book comes from his friends and relatives.
* Sugar Busters! (H. Leighton Steward and associates)
Premise: Sugar Busters! recommends cutting sugar in refined and processed forms from the diet. This includes: potatoes, white rice, corn, white bread beets, carrots and sugar honey, corn syrup and foods containing them. The authors claim that sugar is toxic to the body, causing the body to release insulin and store excess sugar as body fat.
Facts: Long-term effects of high-protein, high-fat intake may include kidney and liver damage, heart disease and cancer. Sugar Busters! is supported by testimonials of the authors’ believers and anecdotal claims. Its validity is based on opinions, not proven facts.
* Volumetrics (Barbara J. Rolls and associates)
Premise: As the name implies, Volumetrics emphasizes eating high-volume, low-calorie foods and thereby getting full faster on fewer calories. High-volume foods take up more space, take a long time to eat and are often high in water content. You’re still getting full, but on fewer calories, which adds up to weight loss.
Facts: This program is based on research showing that eating high-volume, low-calorie foods can be an effective tool to decrease calorie intake, but the most effective weight-loss programs balance a healthy eating plan and exercise.
* The Zone diet (Barry Sears, Ph.D.)
Premise: In his 1995 book, Enter the Zone, Sears writes that to enter “the zone” you need to eat the proper quantities of food, in the proper “macronutrient blocks” at prescribed times. Meals should contain carbohydrates, proteins and fats in the ratio of 40 percent, 30 percent, 30 percent, respectively. A sample meal may be 2 cups of pasta (carbohydrate), a 3-ounce piece of steak (protein), and a small handful of nuts or other fats to round out the meal.
Facts: Although not as restricted as other high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets, the typical zone diet contains less than 1,000 calories, which may result in an inability to meet vitamin and mineral needs for most people. The Zone diet has not been validated scientifically. There’s no scientific reason for eating set combinations of foods at set times.
Revision date: June 22, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD