Diet and Nutrition Q&A by Betty Kovacs

After watching Oprah on Monday, I bought Bob Greene's The Best Life Diet book. It seems like a really motivational way to change my lifestyle, especially since he includes tons of healthy recipes in the book. As a registered dietician, I was wondering what you thought about Greene's nutritional plans and whether you think his methods are effective.

Answer:

My expertise happens to be in the field of weight management. I work at one of the leading obesity research centers in the country, and because of that, my opinions on weight-loss books is based on the research that they have to support their claims. There is a lot of money to be made in the $35 billion a year weight-loss industry, so many people are in this without anything to back what they are telling people. It's really unfortunate, but true. I often end up spending more time explaining why something is incorrect rather than what is correct.

I have not read Bob Greene's The Best Life Diet book, so I did some research online. There appears to be some good aspects to the book. Long-term weight loss and maintenance does require lifestyle changes and is not easy, and this book seems to support that. I did not get to review the recipes but assume that you can trust their nutritional information. If you like to cook, then the recipes are a nice thing to have. It also looks like he encourages support through the use of his web site and the evidence is clear about the benefits of this.

Unfortunately, I also found some flaws in some of the things that I read. There are some nutritional inaccuracies that are not a threat to your health, but are not accurate. These are some things that I found and my explanations about why they are inaccurate:

    1. Make every meal and snack a combination of protein, fiber-rich carbs, and fat.
    With these three building blocks in your menu, you can buy an extra hour of satiety. For example, if you eat a salad with no dressing, you'll just be hungry again.
    —This is not accurate because it has been proven that fat has no impact on how hungry you are. Satiety refers to how full you remain between meals. The only nutrient proven to increase satiety is protein. If you have a salad without any protein, you will get hungry sooner than if you had one with protein, but the dressing will have nothing to do with that.

    2. Regular Pasta
    Regular pasta is not necessarily a bad food. "But the way we eat it sometimes is," Bob says. "I recommend substituting [with] whole grain pasta. It even adds omega-3s, which is fantastic."
    —I am not sure why omega-3's are mentioned with pasta. Omega-3 is the essential fat that has been proven to be beneficial to our health. You get this fat from fatty foods (salmon, mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, and albacore tuna), not from something that is not even considered a source of fat.

    3. High-Fat Dairy Products
    Although dairy foods—such as cheese, milk, yogurt, ice cream and whipped cream—are an excellent source of calcium and protein, there is no reason to have the full-fat version when so many lower-fat versions are available.
    —The inaccuracy here is listing whipped cream as an excellent source of calcium and protein. It's a great source of fat, but not calcium or protein.

Part of the problem is that his training is in exercise physiology, not nutrition. My advice is to take what works for you from the book and be open to other tools to assist you with reaching your goals as well. Remember that nothing has been proven to work forever, so it's okay to try something new if and when this no longer works.

Thank you for your question.


Last Editorial Review: 1/23/2007


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