Apr 2

Diet Fads: Facts and Fiction for Seniors

For National Nutrition Month, Meghan Ostrander, Nutrition Director at Springwell, presented a special program titled, Fad Diets- Pros and Cons at Community Dining sites in Springwell’s service area. Ostrander succinctly laid out claims, as well as potential benefits and risks, of four of the new most popular diet trends. Before starting any new diet plan, consult your physician.

Intermittent Fasting is done by either eating very few calories on alternating days or by fasting during certain hours of the day. The claim is that calorie deprivation slows cell damage and the progression of some age related disease and possibly can prevent or reverse diabetes. Studies have been successful in rodents but have had mixed results in humans. Ostrander notes that there is not adequate research at this time to support the diet. She cautions that people with diabetes need to make sure their blood sugar does not get too low during fasting.

The Ketogenic Diet is a high fat, moderate protein, low carbohydrate regime (50 grams of less of carbohydrates per day). The claim is that when you don’t eat carbohydrates, your body has to burn fat for fuel. This diet was designed to help manage epilepsy and does that successfully for many. Risks include fatigue, bad breath and flu like symptoms as your body adjusts to this diet. High fat and low fiber diets are associated with heart disease.

The Paleo Diet recommends eating like a hunter or gatherer and suggests that obesity and chronic disease are due to agriculture and industry. It has helped some people with weight loss but people have trouble following it long term and typically regain weight. It eliminates some healthy foods and is also known to be expensive because of the recommendation of all organic, grass fed meats.

The Whole 30 Diet eliminates all alcohol, grains, sugar, dairy, legumes and oil for 30 days with the claim that it reduces cravings and helps to reboot habits. It has helped some with short term weight loss but as is common with many diet trends, it eliminates some healthy foods, is hard to stick to long term and weight is often regained.

Ostrander left guests with a list of six questions to ask yourself about any weight loss plan before starting it. Does the diet eliminate entire food groups known to be healthy? Will the diet cause negative health effects, like lethargy, fatigue, gastrointestinal distress? Does this diet fit into a normal life and routine? Could you do this long term and is it in your budget? Are the proponents of the diet trying to sell a product or book? Is the evidence all anecdotal or it is based on research?  She emphasized that “if the answer is yes to more than one question, the diet may not be safe or effective in the long term”

Instead of trend diets, Ostrander recommends cutting out sugary drinks, using measuring cups and spoons to measure portions for calorie management and getting regular exercise.