For Your Health
Dieting Myths Debunked
A top diet doctor explains why what you’re doing now might not be working
-Dr. Richard Lipman
There are many “stories” and axioms about dieting. Some are based on information from parents and friends and a few have been passed down from generation to generation. Some of them – like eating breakfast can help you lose weight – are true, but the vast majority are either half-truths or clearly untrue.
Diet Myth #1: Drinking Lots of Water Makes You Lose Weight
Drinking eight glasses of water a day does not make you lose weight, other than to fill you up so you eat less. Numerous recent scientific studies fail to show that drinking water can increase energy expenditure. Water, like any food, should be consumed in moderation and in response to thirst. Too many people waste time and effort, and thus lose focus on their food choices, when concerned with drinking glass after glass of water. People don’t realize that there is even a serious medical condition attached to over-drinking water. It is called water poisoning and can be lethal. There is no benefit to drinking more water than what your body needs to be well hydrated.
Diet Myth#2: Eating Eggs Raises Your Cholesterol
This myth started because egg yolks are a concentrated source of cholesterol. However, the cholesterol in egg yolks is not the type that causes heart disease. Research at Harvard Medical School shows that it is not the total fat in the diet, but the specific type of fat that can cause heart disease. While the cholesterol in eggs is mostly of the large LDL – or bad cholesterol – it is not the one that does cause heart disease. Only 20 percent of the cholesterol in your blood comes from your diet. The majority is produced by our own liver. Eat eggs, as they are a good source of protein and have easy portion control.
Diet Myth #3: Eating Late In the Evening Makes You Fat
The common assumption is that night is the worst time to eat. The logic: metabolism is slowest at night. Makes sense, but no conclusive studies prove that eating late meals causes weight gain more than eating early meals. Calorie intake, type of foods and hormones play the most important roles. If daily food intake is planned properly and the evening meal turns into the main meal, then eating late could be highly rewarding. It is all about the balance of calorie intake and output. The weight gain consequences of eating the one large meal a day in the evening hours, when the metabolism has already slowed down, are trivial compared with what happens when you end up eating two large meals a day.
Diet Myth #4: Low-Fat Diets Are Better than Low-Carb Diets
This grandma’s tale could easily be turned around to say that low-carb diets are better than low-fat diets. In fact, at the end of one year, there is no difference between dieters who chose low-carb diets over low-fat diets. For many reasons, low-carb dieters may have an advantage in the first few months, but that quickly changes. The key is to lower your overall food intake.
Diet Myth #5: Diet Soda is Bad for You
Without question, this is my favorite myth. The evidence is in! Diet sodas do not cause cancer, heart disease, cellulite or anything else except weight loss. While water may be even “healthier” for you, diet beverages have many additional advantages to a dieter. The carbonation produces fullness and the sweet taste of the new sucralose-based drinks often helps with cravings. I have never seen anyone die from drinking diet drinks, but hundreds die from diabetes and obesity, the result of beverages loaded with high fructose corn syrup, which is in every regular soda and many other drinks.
Diet Myth #6: Diet Books Help You Lose Weight
All of the recent evidence suggests that formal weight loss programs involving a physician are far more effective than the numerous “self-help” books available when trying to lose weight.
Diet Myth #7: Eating Healthy Helps You Lose Weight
There is a serious misunderstanding of what “healthy” means. The oils in seeds, nuts, and salmon might be helping you prevent cancer or heart disease 20 to 30 years from today, but choosing these high-calorie foods that often have portion control problems only results in weight gain, not weight loss today. The consequences of weight gain far outweigh any potential minimal benefit from the oils in these foods.
Diet Myth #8: Bread Makes You Fat
Calories are calories. It does not matter where they come from. A ton of bricks weighs the same as a ton of feathers. Same thing with calories. If the bread you eat contributes to excess calories for the day, then fat accumulates in the same way it would if you eat an excess of brown rice, chocolate or apples for that matter. Bread is very similar to the situation with salad and salad dressing. The reason we have a problem with bread is usually not the bread itself, but the stuff that we eat together with the bread, like butter, olive oil, spreads, cheeses, etc.
It is important to focus and use common sense in order to not get sucked into things that make little or no difference in our diets and overall wellness, but use up lots of space in our minds and also in the daily calories we consume.
Miami diet doctor Dr. Richard Lipman has worked in the field of medicine for more than 30 years. He is board certified in internal medicine and board eligible in endocrinology and metabolism.