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The Diet Review #1

To kick off the first of many reviews of the most popular diet trends in vogue currently, I've highlighted some of the most popular diet trends in the nutrition world today, their pros and cons, and in certain cases why they rose into such popularity. I will only be going over headline coverage on these but rest assured, I will be doing a much more indepth look at each diet individually in the coming weeks and comparing it to what the science actually shows.

 

The Atkins Diet

  • Description: The father of the modern version of the low-carb diet. Officially known as the "Atkins Nutritional Approach", it was promoted by Robert Atkins based on a research paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association published by Dr. Alfred W. Pennington in 1958.
  • Review: Typically considered a "Commericialized" version of low-carb, it focuses on the concept of several phases - "Inducting" someone into low-carb (largely through ketosis) by eliminating carbohydrates altogether in order to lose the weight, and subsequently (in later phases) introducing carbohydrates back into the diet to make it more attainable. Some of the most prominent controversies surrounding the Atkins Diet are it's cost of recipes (largely because the protein sources quoted in studies show a lot of steak and lobster tails), as well as the generally heated debate for the past 3 decades about claims of sustainability, and medical concerns due to the concepts of saturated fats and high-protein diets causing all sorts of ill health effects (which have since been disproven in most contexts). [Full review coming soon]

Weight Watchers

  • Description: A diet promoted by the company "Weight Watchers International, Inc.", and American-based international company that offers not just dieting products but also services to assist in weight loss and maintenance. Founded in 1963 in Brooklyn by Jean Nidetch, it operates in 30 countries worldwide.
  • Review: One of the driving forces behind Weight Watches is it's PointsPlus system - a self-made point system that incorporates macro-nutrient intake and simplifying it to a single number. It touts a "science-driven" approach to it's philosophy in order to help participants lose weight by "forming helpful habits, eating smarter, getting more exercise and providing support". [Full review coming soon]

South Beach Diet

  • Description: Developed by a cardiologist Arthur Agatston and dietician Marie Almon as an alternative to low-fat approaches typically promoted by the American Heart association. Agatston initially developed the diet in order to prevent heart disease in his patients (going against conventional wisdom of his time), but ultimately gained popularity due to it's efficacy as a means to lose weight.
  • Review: Very similar to other low-carb diets, the South Beach diet revolves around a few concepts from Keto, Atkins, and Paleo. Agatston differentiates between "Good Carbs" (unprocessed beans/vegetables/whole grains), vs. "Bad Carbs" (carb-rich foods that cause blood sugar spikes in the body like heavily refined sugars and grains). He also differentiates between "Good Fats" vs. "Bad Fats", completely eliminating trans-fats from the diet however discouraging saturated fats and promoting unsaturated and omega-3 based fats. This diet tends to be more sustainable than the average due to it's relatively high fat content compared to low-calorie diets. [Full review coming soon]

Ketogenic Diet

  • Description: Originally used as a medical therapy for children in order to treat epilepsy, it has recently gained popularity and has become synonymous with weight loss. The source of the name (and the namesake of this site) is due to the effects of the body switching from using carbohydrates to ketones (originally thought of as a mechanism in use when under starvation, but this view is shifting as more science is reviewed). The first phase of the Atkin's diet is ketogenic (which is what causes most of the weight loss in the diet), and it's safety has been explored in populations who do not have access to carbohydrate-based foods (like the Inuit in the north).
  • Review: A relatively new concept of understanding the functions of weight loss, the Ketogenic diet is largely believed to be the real source of most weight loss linked with some form of calorie restriction. Studies are currently under way to determine and hone the exact mechanism as the fastest way to lose weight has been removing carbohydrates from your body as well as reducing calories. Hunger is also addressed as when on a high-fat diet, satiety tends to stay higher than normal. [Full review coming soon]

Paleo Diet

  • Description: Full name being the Paleolithic Diet, is also referred to different names called the caveman diet, it has evolved (no pun intended), to it's modern nutritional equivalent that is based on the presumed ancient diet of our ancestors being that of wild plants and animals that were readily accessible. The premise being that we were consuming a largely different diet available during hte Paleolithic area vs. the agricultural/grain-based diets that were only introduced to us around 10,000 years ago in the cradles of civilization. The diet was first popularized in the mid-1970s by gastroenterologist Walter L. Voegtlin but has since been adapted and promoted a various number of authors since that time.
  • Review: Since there are a few different things that are addressed with a Paleolithic diet, there are a lot of things that science has yet to validate within the diet. Generally speaking, low-carb paleo tends to be the most well adopted diets and maintained diets in modern society, subsisting on natural foods available to the paleolithic area such as vegatables and meats, but avoiding things like dairy, grains, and other processed foods. Less restrictive versions of paleo include not being low-carb (higher volume of fruits), or allowing dairy (viewing it as a natural source of nutrition), but currently a distinct scientific bases has yet to be found for particular nutrition sources, and it's basis is largely historical. [Full review coming soon]
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