why diets don't work

The Search for the Ultimate Way of Eating

In recent years, most individuals’ interest in healthy eating and nutrition has increased. This has also led researchers, nutrition enthusiasts and the majority of the population continue to search for the best way of eating to maintain overall health. But what is the reality? Is there really one way of eating that is BEST for everyone? The short answer, no… and here’s why.

Trends in diet culture and research

As each year passes, new nutrition trends emerge. Yet just because a diet shows popular interest from the public, doesn’t necessarily mean it is healthy or applicable to all. For example, a few years ago coconut oil was the best thing since sliced bread. Now, what do we know about coconut oil? It is 92% saturated fat. Plus, for most individuals, it can increase their LDL (bad) cholesterol which in turn increases their risk for cardiovascular disease.

keto diet interest 2Coconut oil is just one example of a diet trend that many thought was the miracle we all needed, yet research proved otherwise. Consider another more recent example: the ketogenic diet. From the table below, you can see that public interest (in the form of Google searches) for the ketogenic diet has spiked from 2017-2018. As a result, new research is being published each day trying to take an evidenced based approach to answer important questions like “is this way of eating beneficial or preferential for some populations?” OR, “does this way of eating do harm?”

One common theme that research proves for all of these “diets” is that certain individuals will respond well to a particular way of eating, and others won’t. Researchers can assign the same diet designed for weight loss to thousands of people and find that some people will lose a LOT of weight, and others will only lose a little. Some might even GAIN weight. This is true not only for the keto diet, but for other popular 2018 diet trends such as intermittent fasting.

But they said on TV that I would lose weight…

It is human nature to want to find the fastest and easiest approach to achieve our goals. As a result, the media will get their hands on these studies and more often than not, publish articles that do not truly reflect the research. Countless times, I will read articles preaching a new finding about a certain diet in the literature. However, when digging into the source the article was based on, more often than not I find the article has not truly reflected the message depicted in the original study. It’s no wonder there’s so much confusion surrounding diets and whether or not they actually work.

So is there really an ultimate way of eating?

Can diets work? Sure! But, staying on them will be the most important part in determining their success. If you are considering a new way of eating, think to yourself – “is this a way of eating I can do for the rest of my life, even on vacation?” That is usually a good test to see if this new way of eating can truly be a lifestyle!

It is the job of a Registered Dietitian to sift through the current research and media articles, and discuss the pros/cons and practicality for our clients. Each person is very unique and individual based on their gender, physical activity level, health issues, work schedule, family dynamic and personal preferences. As you can imagine there is a lot of consideration that should go into determining the best way of eating for each person.

So as 2019 approaches, I would strongly encourage you to think critically about everything you read. If you are thinking about trying a new dietary trend, remember you can always talk to your dietitian to see if this is a good fit for you!

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