Health Watch -- Bad Fad Diets

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

How do you know if the hot new diet is good for you?

Bookstore shelves, magazines and television talk shows are full of diet information. There are so many popular diets these days, it's hard to keep track. Do you want to go low-carb or low-fat? Vegetarian or high-protein? Which celebrity advocates which diets, and which diets really work?

March is National Nutrition Month, so it's a good time to think about which diets are really good for you. Nutrition experts at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say evaluating diets is as easy as ABC.

"A" stands for "adequacy." Does the meal plan offer enough nutrients to meet your daily needs?

"B" is for balance. Does the diet provide an appropriate distribution of carbohydrates, proteins and fats? The body needs all of these, in certain proportions, to survive. No diet should completely eliminate any of these categories.

"C" is for calorie control. Does the meal plan call for a minimum of 1,200 calories a day for women and 1,500 a day for men? When you drop your calorie intake below that level, your metabolism will adjust to perceived starvation conditions, making it harder for you to lose weight.

Leigh Ann Kowalski, a registered dietitian who teaches clinical nutrition at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, says if you answer no to any of these questions, your diet may be doing more harm than good.


March 2004