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J Am Coll Nutr. 2000 Oct;19(5):578-90.

Health advantages and disadvantages of weight-reducing diets: a computer analysis and critical review.

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Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Department of Internal Medicine, College of Medicine, University of Kentucky, Lexington 40511, USA.



Some weight-loss diets are nutritionally sound and consistent with recommendations for healthy eating while others are "fad" diets encouraging irrational and, sometimes, unsafe practices.


The purpose of the study was to compare several weight loss diets and assess their potential long-term effects.


Eight popular weight-loss diets were selected (Atkins, Protein Power, Sugar Busters, Zone, ADA Exchange, High-Fiber Fitness, Pritikin and Omish) to be non-clinically analyzed by means of a computer to predict their relative benefits/potential harm. A summary description, menu plan and recommended snacks were developed for each diet. The nutrient composition of each diet was determined using computer software, and a Food Pyramid Score was calculated to compare diets. The Mensink, Hegsted and other formulae were applied to estimate coronary heart disease risk factors.


Higher fat diets are higher in saturated fats and cholesterol than current dietary guidelines and their long-term use would increase serum cholesterol levels and risk for CHD. Diets restricted in sugar intake would lower serum cholesterol levels and long-term risk for CHD; however, higher carbohydrate, higher fiber, lower fat diets would have the greatest effect in decreasing serum cholesterol concentrations and risk of CHD.


While high fat diets may promote short-term weight loss, the potential hazards for worsening risk for progression of atherosclerosis override the short-term benefits. Individuals derive the greatest health benefits from diets low in saturated fat and high in carbohydrate and fiber: these increase sensitivity to insulin and lower risk for CHD.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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