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Nutrition Notes

Fad Diets

Diet refers to the combination of foods that a person eats everyday. Diets in the modern world contain an eclectic assortment of foods, often relying on processed "fast foods".

It is reasonable to conclude that the wrong diet leads to dysfunction and disease. A constant parade of fad diets supports several industries: books, magazines, TV shows, weight loss programs. Most of this activity is delusional and futile. In 2004, for example. a low carbo diet fad spread from the USA to Canada and other countries. Marketing organizations under brand names such as "Atkins Diet" and South Beach Diet created the fad. Concerned that popular low-carbohydrate diets are nutritionally unsound, Health Canada responded with regulations that prevent manufacturers from making low-carb claims for their products... the new labeling rules were designed to be compatible with the Canada Food Guide, which recommends that adults get 45 to 65 per cent of their daily calories from carbohydrates. Based on a typical 2,000-calorie diet, that translates to 225 to 325 grams of carbohydrates per day."

Astrup et al reviewed studies of low-carbohydrate diets, only three randomized trials reported on diets sustained for more than 90 days. There was greater weight loss with a low-carbohydrate diet after 6 months than with energy-restricted diets. However, in the two studies that were extended to 12 months, there was no difference between the two types of diets. Astrup recommended more studies lasting long enough to assess the diet's effects on cardiovascular risk factors, such as lipid profiles and glucose tolerance. More information is also needed regarding fiber and micronutrient composition, as well as effects on markers of kidney and bone health, nutritional adequacy, dietary compliance, quality of life and cancer risk. Until then, the preponderance of scientific evidence tells us that people who want to lose weight and keep it off, should switch to a new and permanent diet reduced in calories and fat in combination with physical activity. (Lancet 2004;364:897-899.)

The popular misconception of a Mediterranean Diet has become a standard cliché in medical circles. Mediterranean countries are numerous and diverse with a great variety of cuisines. Even if you focus on Italy, you do not find a single diet but a great diversity of cuisines.


    The term “nutrition” means mean a lot of different things to different people. Some people adopt the term as a professional label; many companies borrow the term to claim a relationship to professional nutrition. Universities may have departments of nutrition. Often the study of nutrition is disconnected from the real world of agricultural practices, food processing and distribution. The intense marketing efforts of food and drug companies flood the media with deliberately biased information that confuses everyone. A majority of health problems are food-related; so these problems get a lot of our attention.

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  • Topics on the left are from the book Nutrition Notes by Stephen Gislason MD. 199 Pages.
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