Our nutrition experts recommend adopting healthy eating habits permanently, rather than impatiently pursuing crash diets in hopes of losing unwanted pounds in a few days.
Why does the AHA care about these diets?
We want to inform the public about misleading weight-loss claims. Many of these diets — like the infamous Cabbage Soup Diet — can undermine your health, cause physical discomfort (abdominal discomfort and flatulence [gas] ) and lead to disappointment when you regain weight soon after you lose it.
- Quick-weight-loss diets usually overemphasize one particular food or type of food. They violate the first principle of good nutrition: Eat a balanced diet that includes a variety of foods. If you are able to stay on such a diet for more than a few weeks, you may develop nutritional deficiencies, because no one type of food has all the nutrients you need for good health. The Cabbage Soup Diet mentioned above is an example. This so-called fat-burning soup is eaten mostly with fruits and vegetables. The diet supposedly helps heart patients lose 10–17 pounds in seven days before surgery. There are no "superfoods." That's why you should eat moderate amounts from all food groups, not large amounts of a few special foods.
- These diets also violate a second important principle of good nutrition: Eating should be enjoyable. These diets are so monotonous and boring that it's almost impossible to stay on them for long periods.
Let's set the record straight: Many of these diets falsely say they are endorsed by or authored by our association. The public should know that the real American Heart Association diet and lifestyle recommendations emphasize flexibility in food selection and stress the importance of eating more nutrient-rich foods – that have vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients but are lower in calories – and fewer nutrient-poor foods.
Unlike an incomplete liquid protein diet or other fad diets, a good diet can be eaten for years to maintain desirable body weight and good health. Fad diets fail to provide ways to keep weight off.
- Some major medical centers prescribe extremely low-calorie, high-protein diets for selected patients who are carefully monitored by physicians.
In what other ways are quick-weight-loss diets flawed?
- Many don't encourage physical activity — for example, walking 30 minutes most or all days of the week. Being physically active helps you maintain weight loss over a long time. Physical inactivity is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
- Because most quick-weight-loss diets require drastic changes in eating patterns, you can't stay on them for long. Following a regimen for a few weeks won't give you the chance to learn about how to permanently change your eating patterns.
- In addition, many fad diets are based on "food folklore," some dating back to the early 19th century. They have not been documented to be safe in the long term. Ideas about "fat-burning foods" and "food combining" are also classified by the American Heart Association as unsubstantiated myths.
Despite what quick-weight-loss diet books may say, the only sensible way to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight permanently is to eat less and balance your food intake with physical activity.
What is the best way to lose weight?
A healthy diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and fat-free or low-fat dairy products, along with regular physical activity, can help most people manage and maintain weight loss for both cardiovascular health and appearance. The American Heart Association urges people to take a safe and proven route to losing and maintaining weight — by following our guidelines for healthy, nutritionally balanced weight loss for a lifetime of good health.
Related AHA publications/resources:
Body Composition Tests
Dietary Guidelines for Healthy Children
Exercise (Physical Activity)
Exercise (Physical Activity)and Children
Obesity and Overweight
Overweight in Children