Diet Touted in Sugar Busters! Bestseller Busted by EN

Q. <font SIZE=”2″ face=”Arial”>Can the diet in the book Sugar Busters! help me lose weight?<font SIZE=”2″>

A. <font SIZE="2" face=”Arial”>sure, initially. But as with any fad diet, the results are not likely to last. A bestseller around the country and the talk of New Orleans where restaurants are serving up Sugar Busters! specials, this book offers nothing more than carbohydrate-bashing in disguise. Similar diets recur every few years. In the ‘70’s, the Atkins Diet popularized the low-carb, high-protein approach; most recently, The Zone made news.

The book’s premise is based on a few facts twisted to fit the Sugar Busters! theory: Eating sugar stimulates insulin, a hormone that promotes fat storage, while eating protein stimulates glucagon, a hormone that mobilizes fat. A low-carb, high-protein diet, then, should result in weight loss, or so goes the theory. Foods with a high “glycemic index”—those that cause blood sugar to surge—are to be avoided altogether, according to the book. Foods on the “no-no” list include such basics as pasta, rice, white potatoes, carrots, corn and watermelon.

The book’s appeal is that it promises you’ll lose weight by eating high-fat foods you are typically told to avoid, namely steak, lamb chops, sausage, eggs, cream and butter. Chocolate and sugar-free ice cream are also just fine. And you don’t even have to exercise! Sounds great—no wonder it’s a bestseller.

But of course, there’s a catch. In this case, quite a few. First, the premise that sugar makes you fat by increasing insulin production is grossly oversimplified. Insulin promotes fat storage only when excess calories are consumed, whether from sugars, fats or even protein.

Second, eliminating foods based on the glycemic index is highly questionable. The index only holds true if you eat a food all by itself. Foods with a high glycemic score, like potatoes or beets, are unlikely to raise blood sugar as much when eaten with a meal.

Third, the diet may work at first, but not because of any magical insulin theory. The weight you lose initially on such diets is mostly water, not fat. And on this diet, you’re apt to snack less on the high-carb foods people often overindulge in, so you probably will eat fewer calories.

Fourth, we found the diet to be particularly low in several nutrients, such as calcium, vitamin A and fiber. And, in a major gaffe, the book does not encourage exercise, which is key to maintaining a weight loss:

EN’s Bottom Line. It’s true, most everyone could afford to cut back on sugar and refined starches, like cake and white bread, as Sugar Busters! preaches. But you didn’t need a high-priced bestseller to tell you that. The book’s sin is glorifying high-protein, high-fat animal foods at the expense of nutritious foods. It may be boring advice, but the key to losing weight is to eat smaller portions, enjoying a balance and variety of foods, and to exercise. Most important, these habits need to be viewed as a life change, not a diet.

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