If you’re the least bit overweight, you know how confusing it is to wade your way through the countless diet ads and promotions that fill our TV’s and other media every day.
With 66% of American adults currently diagnosed as overweight or obese, choosing the right diet is a challenge that affects us directly or a loved one close to us. Solutions like the South Beach Diet, keto, intermittent fasting and others are being heavily promoted. But which ones really work?
Dr. Dominique Fradin-Read should know. With a successful preventive medicine practice in Los Angeles for the past 20 years, she’s known nationally for her expertise in real world programs that identify and fix biochemistry and physiological imbalances. That gives her unique insights into the many diets available to audiences nationwide.
The Doctor Weighs In.
We sat down with Dr. Read to get her views on the kinds of diets that work and those that don’t. Here’s how she answered our questions:
Let’s begin with what our readers are hungry to hear: Is there a safe, scientifically sound diet you’re recommending to patients today?
Dr. Read: There is, but you have to understand that there’s no one solution for everyone. Some people are dieting to lose weight. Others are looking for a healthy diet that could help extend their lifespan. Ideally you can find one that does both.
But among all the diets out there—some of which are quite good--the one I recommend most often is the Mediterranean Diet. It’s an excellent program that lets you eat your way to a strong, healthy body that is resistant to common ills like heart disease, cancer and many others, thereby contributing to a longer, healthier lifespan. There’s even a low carb version of the Mediterranean Diet for those who need lose weight. The science is sound, and the results are well documented not just in my practice but around the world.
If you’re asking what works, my first recommendation is always the Mediterranean Diet.
What (if any) popular dieting trends should be avoided?
Dr. Read: This is where I see so many potential dangers for dieters. For example, one that comes to mind is the original HCG Diet, a very low-fat, very low-calorie diet. So low, in fact, that it risks reducing the basal metabolic rate to a point where patients are losing muscle more than fat. That’s just plain unhealthy.
Or there are the exotic fad diets without any science behind them at all, like the “banana diet” or the “cookie diet.” They deprive the body of critical nutrients and proteins and should be avoided at all costs.
I’ve seen patients who had been skipping a meal only to over-eat at the next meal. As a result, their metabolic rate was soon all messed up and any weight loss they might have enjoyed was quickly gone. They actually put on weight instead of losing it.
What foods contribute most to weight gain? Is any type of processed food acceptable for a truly healthy diet?
Dr. Read: Any processed food is “bad” for a truly healthy diet. Commercial fast food should also be avoided. Better to have a homemade sandwich with a piece of cheese, turkey and lettuce and maybe an apple rather than a fast food hamburger and fries. Eat at home whenever you can. I find that much healthier because you can pick and choose the healthiest ingredients. But if you have time only for takeout, look for places that have healthy items in their menus.
Generally speaking, avoid all fried foods, sugar and sugar substitutes, and calorie-rich/nutrient-deficient deserts such as ice cream or cream cakes.
What’s your opinion of currently popular trends like Intermittent Fasting and Keto?
Dr. Read: Intermittent fasting and keto have a lot of potentially positive elements about them, but they don’t work for everyone. Nor, in many cases, do they always work well as long-term nutritional food plans. For some individuals, they’re potentially harmful, in fact. I would recommend that a patient do a full metabolic evaluation before going on such diets for more than 1 month or so. But as always, before drastically changing your eating habits, always check with your healthcare provider first. Get their advice based upon your personal health history before going ahead.
Here’s what I tell my patients: no one diet fits all. Your individual biochemistry needs to be assessed before we recommend any specific food plan. Both the metabolic function and the brain chemistry are involved in the process. Willpower alone is not enough for most people to stick to a diet for very long.
How important are insulin resistance and inflammation in the weight control process?
Dr. Read: In our practice, we’ve noted that insulin resistance has become one of the most frequent metabolic disturbances among our patients who weight gain. This is likely due to previous exposure to too many sweets, carbohydrates or alcohol.
Insulin resistance causes chronic inflammation in the body and puts the patient at an increased risk for diabetes, cancer cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s Disease.
For patients with any of those conditions, my first recommendation is a reduction in carbs, sweets and alcohol as much as possible.
My second recommendation: get more exercise!
Regular exercise can minimize the risk as it helps burn sugar in the peripheral muscles. It’s not uncommon, however, that patients also need supplements or short-term medications to begin reversing the process and start losing weight.
Dr. Read’s Final Word of Advice: Don’t Put It Off.
Let’s face it: many of us tend to be in denial about weight gain. Instead of changing our eating habits, we buy larger clothes.
This not only increases the risk of permanent damage to our health but makes the ultimate solution—a well-balanced, scientifically sound diet—that much harder to follow. It also makes us much more susceptible to fad diets that do nothing for us.
“If you do nothing about your weight gain,” Dr. Read says, “you run the risk of very serious health issues. Resist the temptation to jump on the next diet bandwagon you see, and have an honest conversation with your physician without delay.”