Weight-loss diets that call for eating protein-rich foods and little else have not been proven to work over the long term and may be bad for your health, the American Heart Association (AHA) says.
"Although these diets may not be harmful for most healthy people for a short period of time, there are no long-term scientific studies to support their overall efficacy and safety," the prominent health group said in a scientific advisory published in its journal, Circulation.
The AHA joins a growing chorus of government and private health officials against fad diets. These experts say the key to shedding pounds for good is to take the weight off slowly and steadily through a combination of sensible eating and physical activity.
Nation on a Diet
Their advice may be a bitter pill to swallow for the millions of Americans battling weight problems. In its report, the AHA said most adult Americans are dieting. Popular in the 1960's, high-protein diets are in vogue again as an alternative to low-fat regimens.
According to government statistics, 55 percent of Americans are overweight or obese, one in five of them children. In the last two decades, obesity among adults has shot up 50 percent. Four of the nation's leading killersheart disease, some cancers, diabetes, and strokeare linked to diet and lack of exercise.
AHA Weighs In
The AHA recommendation was written by six healthcare professionals who are members of the group's nutrition committee. The authors didn't do any new research, but reviewed the current science available. They evaluated five popular high-protein diets, including the Atkins Diet, Sugar Busters and The Zone.
Among their conclusions:
- The initial weight loss on high-protein diets is mostly due to the body retaining less fluid when it takes in fewer carbohydrates.
- Most Americans already eat more protein than their bodies need. Extra protein is not used efficiently by the body and may put a burden on the kidneys and liver.
- A very high protein diet is especially risky for people with diabetes, because it can speed the progression of diabetic renal disease.
- High-protein diets may raise the risk of heart disease because of the high intakes of saturated fat and cholesterol.
- High-protein diets that are bereft of fruit, vegetables, beans and whole grains may increase cancer risk and can lead to deficiencies in essential vitamins, minerals and fiber over the long term.
- Osteoporosis and gout are two additional possible health risks from high-protein diets, the AHA said. A surplus of protein in the body increases urinary calcium loss, which may speed up the development of osteoporosis.
Information Tips the Scale
FoodFit has a wealth of information on how to build a balanced, healthy diet. The first stop: the Food Pyramid. The whole family can enjoy this easy-to-use, fun guide to eating. And be sure to take the FoodFit Profile to pinpoint your nutrition strengths and weaknesses.