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Weight Loss and Control (cont.)

Diet Plans: Beware

There are too many weight-loss diet plans to address each of them here. A few are discussed below.

Dean Ornish Diet

This is a very strict low-fat diet. Besides causing you to lose weight, it also decreases your cholesterol and has been scientifically proven to reverse coronary artery disease. Some people on this diet have decreased the size of the plaques in the arteries supplying the heart, thereby avoiding the need for open-heart bypass surgery.

The diet involves intensive lifestyle changes.

  • A vegetarian diet that includes 10% fat calories
  • Moderate aerobic exercise
  • Stress-management training including yoga and meditation
  • Smoking cessation
  • Group psychosocial support

Caution: The American Heart Association cautions that very low-fat diets may increase triglycerides. Increasing exercise and taking a flaxseed or fish oil supplement can minimize this risk.

Very low-fat diets may be difficult for all but the most motivated and disciplined people.

The Atkins Diet

This diet restricts carbohydrates. The introduction phase (two weeks or more) restricts carbohydrates to less than 20 grams per day. This excludes most fruits and vegetables and relies on a diet of mostly animal fats and protein.

It is true that simple carbohydrates, such as sugar and white flour, pasta, and rice, and alcohol, are rapidly absorbed and cause weight gain when consumed in excess. They should be avoided by people who are overweight or obese.

On the other hand, complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, brown rice, fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, and soy products are rich in fiber, which slows their absorption. In moderation, they are excellent food choices for overweight and obese people. They should make up a significant proportion of the diet. And yet these are also strictly limited by the Atkins diet.

Numerous studies have shown that excess animal protein in the diet increases the risks of breast and prostate cancers, heart disease, kidney disease, and osteoporosis. Fats and proteins break down in the body to substances called ketones. The large amounts of fat and protein in the Atkins diet are likely to cause an excess of ketones in the body, a condition called ketosis.

Caution: This diet may not be appropriate for people with diabetes, and its safety in pregnant or breastfeeding women has not been established. It also establishes unhealthy eating habits.

The hCG Diet

Human chorionic gonadotropin is a hormone produced during pregnancy. This new diet plan claims that HCG can suppress appetite. The FDA, however, has not approved HCG for weight loss, and it must be prescribed by a physician. Over-the-counter preparations are often labeled as "homeopathic" but contain very little, if any, of the actual hormone. People lose weight on this diet because the plan calls for a restriction of calories to 500 per day. This is not healthy, and one is likely to regain any weight lost during the severe calorie restriction.

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