Weight Loss Diets Come Full Circle

Isn't it strange how things always seem to come full circle? Take weight loss diets, for example. Up until the 1920s, it was generally accepted that losing weight meant cutting out or reducing high carbohydrate foods like sugar, bread and potatoes. Then the calorie concept was invented, and losing weight became a matter of cutting down on quantity of food instead. Next fat entered the equation. Nutritionists had worked out that because fat contains more calories than either protein or carbohydrate, restricting fat was an easy way to cut calories. Researchers had also carried out studies which at the time seemed to prove that fat in the diet led to high cholesterol and heart disease. As a result, a low fat, low calorie diet soon became the accepted way to lose weight and remained so for many years.

But did the low calorie and low fat methods of weight loss dieting work? Well, they did for some people, but for a great many others they did not.

In the 1990s, the idea that carbohydrates are for many people the real villains in weight gain came back into fashion. Views on dieting had come full circle. Dr Atkins of Atkins Diet fame was perhaps the best-known proponent of carbohydrate restriction as a way to lose weight, although there have been many other clinicians and researchers saying the same thing.

Unfortunately, low carb diets and the Atkins Diet in particular received a lot of negative press, much of it caused by a basic misunderstanding of how the different food groups - carbohydrates, fats and proteins - are processed by the body. Since then, more clinical studies have been completed, from which it is becoming increasingly clear that the old beliefs about carbohydrates causing many people's weight problems were right after all.

Moreover, research is showing that fat and cholesterol are not the villains they were made out to be, either. The evidence demonstrates that it is too many refined carbohydrates in the diet which are the cause of heart disease, not fat and cholesterol - just as Dr Atkins and many others believed.

Unfortunately, most government healthy eating advice is so rooted in the 'low fat is healthiest' concept and the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries are so deeply committed to products and therapies based on the outdated and discredited science that supports it that that it will take many years for the latest knowledge to translate into real change.

An American science writer called Gary Taubes has recently published a book on this very subject. The book is called Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control and Disease (the UK version is called 'The Diet Delusion'). If you want to understand how little credible science supports the belief that carbohydrates are the good guys and fat and cholesterol are the bad guys in obesity, diabetes and heart disease, then read Gary's book. He also explains just how it could come about that these incorrect beliefs could have become so established in the scientific research and medical worlds, despite plentiful evidence that they were wrong. As Richard Rhodes, winner of the Pulitzer Prize said, the book is 'easily the most important book on diet and health to be published in the past one hundred years'.

Read the book, lend it to your friends, ask your doctor to read it, or even donate a copy to your local library - let's not waste the next fifty years going full circle once again before we finally understand that it is refined carbohydrates and not fat and cholesterol or too little exercise that are behind the scourges of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.