The Diet From Down Under (cont.)

"The authors of the Total WellBeing Diet put a fairly good emphasis on physical activity, which we didn't hear as much about with Atkins or South Beach," says Susan Moores, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. "The recommendations were doable for people and its clear they tried to make it a little more friendly to everyone, like recommending 10,000 steps a day."

Another key difference is that the Aussie diet throws a token amount of carbs into the plan.

The authors of the Total WellBeing Diet state on the CSIRO web site, "Unlike fad high-protein diets, the CSIRO plan is nutritionally balanced and contains a moderate amount of slow-release carbohydrates essential for energy and for keeping blood sugars even. You can follow the plan safely and adapt it as a way of eating for life."

So while the Atkins and South Beach diets often fall apart as people work carbohydrates back into their lives, the Total WellBeing diet might have a better chance of long-term success.

"This could have staying power," says Moores. "Whereas people get tired of these high-protein diets and not being able to have some of their favorite foods -- like bread, pasta, and potatoes -- this is moderate enough that someone would be more willing to hang with it longer. Unlike Atkins, it looks like there are some fruits, grains and vegetables; it's not as restrictive."

But while the Total WellBeing Diet looks like it might have a leg up on its U.S. rivals, Americans should know by now there is never an easy answer when it comes to weight loss.

The Drawbacks

"This is not a healthful diet," says Dean Ornish, MD, founder and president of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in San Francisco. "As the authors write, 'Participants in the study ate 200g (raw weight) of lean red meat at evening meals and 100g (cooked weight) of chicken/fish at lunch. It is essential that you eat these items daily - these are compulsory foods.'"

This type of diet, Ornish tells WebMD, has just too much protein; it puts a strain on the kidneys and promotes health problems like osteoporosis and coronary heart disease, as well as cancers such as breast, prostate, and colon.

"It's important to lose weight in ways that promote health, not ones that may compromise it," says Ornish, who is a clinical professor of medicine at the University of California in San Francisco. "An optimal diet is low in fat, high in complex carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and soy products, along with some fish, and low in simple or refined carbohydrates, such as sugar, white flour, and white rice."

While Ornish does say that the Total WellBeing Diet is slightly better than Atkins and somewhat comparable to South Beach, which he reminds us was the diet President Clinton was on when he was diagnosed with severe coronary heart disease, he does add, "The research upon which it is based is meager and lasted only 12 weeks."

From Australia to the U.S.

Before Americans jump on the Total WellBeing Diet bandwagon, Ornish's call for more research and the words and wisdom of the American Dietetic Association shouldn't go unheeded: A balanced and well-rounded healthy diet combined with regular physical activity is always the best route for long-term success.

"Exercise is side by side with a healthy diet in terms of sustainable weight loss success," says Moores, reminding both Australians and Americans that there is no magic bullet when it comes to weight loss, whether it's from Total WellBeing, Atkins, or South Beach. "There's no getting around either one; that's the bottom line."

Published Oct. 17, 2005.

SOURCES: Susan Moores, RD, spokeswoman, American Dietetic Association, St. Paul, Minn. Manny Noakes, PhD, senior dietitian/research scientist, CSIRO Human Nutrition, Adelaide BC, Australia. Dean Ornish, MD, founder and president, Preventive Medicine Research Institute; clinical professor of medicine, University of California, San Francisco. CSIRO web site.

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Last Editorial Review: 11/4/2005