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Avoid Fad Diets when Biting into a Healthy Lifestyle

From the Show: Eat Right Radio
Summary: If a diet or product sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Air Date: 3/10/15
Duration: 10
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guest Bio: Lisa Cimperman, MS, RD, LD
Cimperman Lisa 0740Lisa Cimperman is a clinical dietitian at University Hospitals Case Medical Center, where she works with physicians to provide specialized nutrition support to critically ill patients in the surgical intensive care unit. She also educates patients on dietary modifications after heart, esophageal and lung surgeries. Prior to specializing in critical care nutrition, Cimperman’s experience included adult and pediatric outpatient counseling. In addition to direct patient care responsibilities, Cimperman provides ongoing nutrition education for physicians and mentors dietetic interns. She has participated in the completion and publication of a pilot study to further discern the effects of antibiotic use and probiotic supplementation and has lectured on probiotics and other topics as a guest speaker in Case Western Reserve University undergraduate and graduate level nutrition courses. Cimperman has a special interest in helping individuals with functional and inflammatory gastrointestinal disorders and volunteers with the local and national chapters of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. Cimperman is a graduate of Case Western Reserve University, where she also earned a Master’s degree.
Avoid Fad Diets when Biting into a Healthy Lifestyle
With all the focus on weight in our society, it isn't surprising that millions of people fall prey to fad diets and bogus weight-loss products.

Conflicting claims, testimonials and hype by so-called "experts" can confuse even the most informed consumers.

The bottom line is simple: if a diet or product sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

There are no foods or pills that magically burn fat. No super foods will alter your genetic code. No products will miraculously melt fat while you watch TV or sleep.

Some ingredients in supplements and herbal products can be dangerous and even deadly for certain people.

Biting into a healthy lifestyle, as part of National Nutrition Month, means adopting sensible and sustainable eating plans that cater to your tastes while providing the nutrients you need (and avoiding the additives you don’t).

Lisa Cimperman, a clinical dietitian at University Hospitals Case Medical Center, discusses fad diets and why they are simply too good to be true.

Melanie Cole (Host):  With all the focus on weight in our society, it isn’t surprising that millions of people fall prey to fad diets and bogus weight loss products. Conflicting claims, testimonials, and hype by so-called experts can confuse even the most informed consumers. The bottom line is simple: If a diet or product sounds too good to be true, it probably is. My guest today is Lisa Cimperman. She’s a clinical dietitian at University Hospitals Case Medical Center. Welcome to the show, Lisa. Let’s talk about fad diets. There’s so many, you see them at late night – magic pills, magic diets, burn belly fat. Tell us a little bit about some of the most famous fad diets and whether or not they truly do work.

Lisa Cimperman (Guest):  Options are ever expanding for people who want to follow the latest diet trend. For registered dietitians, a lot of these diet fads and trends are like nails on a chalkboard. It almost seems as if we’re always combatting these myths that are out there. Some of the most popular things going on right now, just to name a few, are the Paleo diet. Also beverages are huge right now, such as Bulletproof Coffee or bone broth. Again, those are simply a few of the things that are out there right now.  

Melanie:  Okay, so let’s just start with a few of them, right? Let’s talk about the Atkins diet. Let’s start with that one, the Atkins diet, really high protein, all that sort of thing. Tell us about the Atkins diet and why this diet really doesn’t work in the long term.

Lisa:  The Atkins diet has been around for a really long time and it always seems to ebb and flow in popularity. The Atkins diet traditionally is very, very high in protein and saturated fats and low in carbohydrate. In fact, in the beginning of the diet, you are consuming little to none carbohydrates. The diet is not a healthy diet. It’s simply not balanced enough to provide individuals with enough nutrients that they need to fuel them adequately throughout the day. The other thing is that carbohydrates have been very much maligned, but we know that carbohydrates are the body’s preferred energy source. In fact, your brain needs at least 150 grams of carbohydrates per day to function optimally, so cutting carbohydrates out of your diet is actually detrimental. The key here is to choose the right kinds of carbohydrates, carbs that are full of fiber such as whole grains and fruits while cutting out carbohydrates that are high in sugar or refined grains. What we’re seeing now are sort of variations on this high protein, low carbohydrate trend such as the Paleo diet. 

Melanie:  Well, people don’t realize that a tomato is a carbohydrate and a carrot is a carbohydrate and nobody ever got fat eating a carrot and a tomato, but those are both off limits at the beginning of Atkins. Now, I want to try and get through as many of these as we can, Lisa. What about the raw food diet? People think “this is going to be great, this is going to be something that’s really going to help me get healthy,” but it’s really hard to do. 

Lisa:  It is. It’s hard to do, and my main issue with the raw food diet is that some of the health claims regarding the raw food diet are unfounded. The fact is that some nutrients are actually better absorbed when cooked. For example, you bring out something like carrot. The nutrient, the beta-carotene, in carrots is better absorbed when cooked. An excellent way to cook fruits and vegetables, vegetables in particular, without losing the nutrients, is to steam them or roast them. So eating raw foods isn’t necessarily always the best option for the healthiest diet, and as you mentioned, it’s hard to do. It’s very time-consuming and it may not be palatable to all individuals. So holding that raw foods diet to the highest standard is not really useful in getting people to eat the healthiest diet that they can.

Melanie:  Now, what about things like the South Beach diet or even the Mediterranean diet, the Zone diet? They all have some things in common, those three diets. Some of them, like the Mediterranean diet, is a great way to eat. Kindly go over those and give us some of the advantages and disadvantages. 

Lisa:  Something like the South Beach diet or the Zone diet, they’re based on very strict rules. In some ways, they are similar to the Atkins diet in that they reduce the overall carbohydrate consumption. I will say though that those two diets are definitely not in the worst of the bunch, but again, they do apply a somewhat arbitrary set of rules to your eating pattern that may not be most useful in developing an overall healthy eating pattern for the long term. That truly is, again, one of the main problems with these things. People can follow any set of rules for a short period of time, but the true test of any diet is whether or not you can follow it long term and whether or not it supports your overall health and wellness goals long term, not just your weight loss goals. Any diet can produce weight loss. What we want to know is, can you do it long term and is it healthy long term?
Now, something like the Mediterranean diet is an excellent way to eat. What we’re looking at here is really a dietary pattern that comes from people living along the Mediterranean, so this isn’t so much as an arbitrary set of rules, but a cultural dietary pattern that individuals have followed for many, many years. What we know is that these people who have followed this diet live long, healthy lives. When we put the Mediterranean diet to the test in research studies, what we’re seeing is that it does have significant benefits in terms of reducing risk for heart disease and even in preventing chronic diseases like diabetes or in improving diabetes control.  

Melanie:  Now, what about things like some diet programs, Weight Watchers, NutriSystem? I myself did Weight Watchers and I thought that it really put me into a good place where I was accountable for my own actions. What do you think about following one of those rule-based plans? 

Lisa:  Well, one of the main advantages of something like that is the group support that those programs offer you. What we know, again, is that having someone to be accountable to, as you said, is one of the most important things to sticking with any healthy change, so being in a support group or having someone that you report to, even doing some of these things with a friend can make you more accountable and make you more likely to stick to these changes. Again, the programs that you mentioned all have different pros and cons. Something like Weight Watchers, for example, is excellent at teaching people portion control. I think that we’ve seen some positive changes in Weight Watchers, specifically, and that it’s guiding people towards healthy food choices rather than just sort of letting them pick whatever as long as they stay within a certain point. 

Melanie:  It does give you that good guide. Now, in just 30 seconds, Lisa, wrap it up for us, if you would, fad diets, the goods and the bads, 30 seconds. 

Lisa:  Good nutrition is simple. It’s all about making healthy choices: whole grains, a lot of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and low-fat sources of calcium. Any healthy eating pattern needs to be combined with exercise. Stick with it and you will live a long and healthy life.

Melanie:  Thank you so much. What great information. You are listening to Eat Right Radio with our good friends from the Academy of Nutrition and Diatetics. For more information, you can go to That’s This is Melanie Cole. Thanks so much for listening and stay well.