Diets - which is the best diet?

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Every day we're bombarded with the latest fad diet that claims to end all our weight loss problems. But just how effective are diets and which is the best diet? Our nutritional expert gives us the lowdown on whether diets really work.

Diets - which is the best diet?
By fitness and nutritional expert Dax Moy

Have you been to the health and fitness section of your local bookstore lately?

Chances are that if you have, you'll have noticed (or been bombarded by) literally hundreds of titles claiming to be THE way to finally succeed in achieving your weight-loss goals. But with approaches as diverse as high protein-zero carb to fruit and veg only, how can we possibly be certain that what we're reading will actually deliver the results that the authors promise?

It's such a minefield! To make it even more difficult, each diet comes with more scientific data than you could ever read in a lifetime and endorsements from high-profile celebrities who are prepared to swear under oath that the approaches work miracles. Talk about information overload - just choosing the right book seems to me harder than sticking to the actual diets!

Well, no longer will that be the case. As of today you'll be armed with the no-nonsense lowdown on today's most popular dietary approaches. With no punches pulled and no bias either, you'll be able to make decisions based upon FACT. Now wouldn't that be a novel thing in this day and age?

Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then I'll begin.

The Atkins Diet

Believe it or not, the Atkins diet has been around for nearly 35 years now, yet to read any of the press surrounding the approach you could easily believe it only came into being when Jennifer Aniston decided to start using it.

Created by Dr Robert Atkins in the 1970s, the approach is promoted as a lifestyle change rather than a diet, and as such has gained a large number of both fans and critics on both sides of the diet fence.

Critics claim that the high protein-high fat approach, when applied long term, puts practitioners of this system at long-term risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), diabetes and hypertension, while many others strongly believe that even short-term use of the system is a health risk.

Advocates put forward the opposite argument, with examples of dramatic weight loss, massive reductions in blood pressure and reduced cholesterol readings as their evidence of the efficacy of the system.

The science bit

Atkins is basically a high-protein, moderate-fat and very low-carbohydrate diet. The theory is that modern diets are far too high in carbohydrates and refined foods and so Atkins does away with this by minimising the insulin-provoking effect of carbs by simply reversing the normal ratios of carbohydrate to protein within the diet. The effect is that the body is forced to use fat as a fuel source which, so the theory goes, reduces surplus body fat.

Does it work?

Undoubtedly... in the short term. In fact almost everyone who has participated in the Atkins diet has reported significant weight loss at the start of the programme. Whether the system is effective over longer periods is is yet to be seen.

Initial weight loss is often attributed purely to the depletion of carbohydrates and water stored within the muscles. After this has gone, the 'miracle weight loss' ceases and you then have to work much harder to alter body composition.

Is it worth it?

Long-term studies tell of mixed results. Many claim that over the course of a year the benefits are no better than following the traditional calorie-reduced approach, yet for others the initial buzz of losing a stone in a month will endear them to Atkins forever... even with the bad breath and flatulence that often accompanies the diet.
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