Finger on the Pulse: Popular diets, what are they and do they work?
This month, our health and wellness columnist Dr Andrea Lim lists down some of the popular diet options and if they really work.
There seems to be a new diet craze every week, endorsed by Hollywood A-listers or celebrity trainers, which promise to miraculously melt fat and make us live longer without any effort on our part.
This month, let’s take a look at some popular diets and my verdicts on them.
The term ‘cleanse’ has been used in many a diet, and they mean many different things; from replacing a meal or two a day with a vegetable or fruit smoothie for example, to drinking peppered water for a couple weeks.
Verdict: There is no firm research that backs these cleanse-type diets. The very basis of detoxifying your body with these drinks is doubtful at best—as your kidneys, liver and intestines have natural mechanisms that perform that very function. The idea that downing some concoction to further better that purpose is appealing perhaps but unlikely.
Famously popularised by the Duchess of Cambridge for her wedding preparation, the Dukan diet is a variation of the equally popular Atkins diet—basically a low-carbohydrate, high protein diet that comprises 4 phases. Vegetables and fat are banned in the first phase, and dieters are allowed a list of 72 foods. The rules ease up as the diet progresses.
Verdict: Effective for rapid weight loss, but unsustainable and also nutritionally unbalanced. Vitamin and fibre supplements might be required. Also, it is a restrictive diet and difficult to adhere to.
Also known as the Caveman diet. Paleo followers preach the benefits in returning to our ancestral habits, and this plan involves plenty of lean meat, eggs, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds—imagine you lived in prehistoric times and had to hunt and gather—you get the idea. Dairy, wheat, refined sugar, potatoes, salt or anything that is processed if off limits. There is no calorie-counting involved in the Paleo diet.
Verdict: It can be a restrictive plan as there are many food groups excluded in it. Some adaptations of the diet are less strict and could be a good option for some. If you want to copy our ancestors, perhaps a better way to start is by simulating their activity levels instead.
A version of Intermittent Fasting, or IF to its devout followers. On the 5:2 plan, you eat normally for 5 days of the week, and fast on the other two. Other IF variations include the 20:4 (20 hours fasted, 4 hours eating); 16:8 (16 hours fasted; 8 hours eating); you get the gist. Fans of IF claim significant weight loss, and also cite benefits such as improved lifespan and protection against degenerative brain diseases such as dementia.
Verdict: You have more hours in your day (or week) where you do not eat on an IF plan, which means a calorie-reduction, which means weight loss. Some variations of this diet are safer and easier to follow than others. It may not be suitable for those with eating disorders such as bulimia, and definitely not for diabetics.
The basis of this plan is that the modern-day diet causes our bodies to produce too much acid, which turns into fat. This acid is also thought to cause arthritis, osteoporosis, and several other health conditions. There is a list of acid-producing foods to be avoided, which include meat, wheat, grains, dairy, caffeine, alcohol and refined sugar. Alkaline foods, which consist of fruits and vegetables are on a good list. The aim is to balance the pH (acidity levels) in our bodies.
Verdict: The pH in our bodies is managed internally regardless of what we eat. There is no hard science for the basis of the plan, however, the general eating principles of the diet, which advise cutting down on processed foods and sugar, and increasing fruit and vegetable intake are good ones.
Blood type diet
Sometimes known as Eat Right for Your Type diet, this plan advocates eating certain foods based on your blood group: A, B AB or O. It is thought that each blood type digests lectins, or food proteins, in a different manner; and that eating the wrong foods for your body will cause negative effects.
Verdict: This diet cuts out food groups and could potentially be nutritionally damaging. There is currently no firm research to back the plan up. The advice however, to keep active is of course, sound.
With a perfect combination of charismatic beauty, grace and intelligence, Dr Andrea Lim is a firm believer in the values of hard work and dedication. Besides working in her family business, KL Sogo, the medical degree holder is also a partner in her husband’s health and fitness venture, Peak Fitness.
To get in touch with her, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In one of her previous columns, Dr Andrea debunks some common myths and conceptions on health.