Did you hear?... Consumer Reports ranks validity of diet books, get-fit plans

The June issue of Consumer Reports has an article titled "New Diet Winners" that looks at seven diet books that the magazine staff stated "have never been put to the acid test of a large clinical trial." It rates the diets using an expert-panel questionnaire and its own analysis of nutritional quality and all-around weight-loss and fitness advice.

With summer quickly approaching, shedding clothes and losing weight are top of mind for many Americans. Nearly half (47 percent) of U.S. women and 34 percent of men are currently trying to slim down, according to a survey just out from Consumer Reports magazine, which rated various diet books and plans in its June issue.

In its article, "New Diet Winners," Consumer Reports (www.consumer.org) looked at seven diet books that the magazine staff stated "have never been put to the acid test of a large clinical trial." It said it based its ratings on an expert-panel questionnaire and its own analysis of nutritional quality and all-around weight-loss and fitness advice. Among those reviewed in rank order are: "The Best Life Diet," "Eat, Drink & Weigh Less," "You on a Diet," "The Abs Diet," "The South Beach Diet," "The Sonoma Diet" and "Ultra-Metabolism."

In addition to reviewing the nutrition advice, menus and explanations of the science and nutrition behind the plans, Consumer Reports also evaluated the books on the quality of their exercise information. Of the books it evaluated, "You on a Diet," "The Best Life Diet" and "The Abs Diet" received high marks for their clear and detailed sections on exercise. "Eat, Drink & Weigh Less" received a middle-of-the-road average ranking, while "The South Beach Diet," "The Sonoma Diet" and "Ultra-Metabolism" were all just one notch ahead of the "worst" end of the scale.

Consumer Reports also rated eight popular diet plans that have been studied in clinical trials. Ratings were based on adherence to nutritional guidelines from the 2005 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the results of published randomized clinical studies that reported short-term (3 to 6 months) and long-term (12 months) results and together studied at least 40 subjects per diet.

The Volumetrics diet took the top spot, employing a strategy of consuming "low-density" foods and encouraging dieters to first take the edge off of hunger by consuming a low calorie soup or salad. While Volumetrics was top-rated, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, and Slim-Fast followed closely together. Subsequent rankings were eDiets, The Zone Diet (men's menu), Ornish Diet and Atkins Diet.

Crank up the activity

Among the eight strategies outlined by Consumer Reports to lose weight -- based on the latest research and statistics gleaned from the National Weight Control Registry -- "cranking up the activity" was No. 4 on the list. While 60 to 90 minutes of rigorous exercise a day alone to control weight may be out of reach for many non-athletes, it encouraged an active lifestyle to help maintain weight loss. National Weight Control Registry participants report doing about an hour a day of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking.

In addition to the diet book and plan rankings, the Consumer Reports Research Center conducted a U.S. telephone survey in April and compiled the following statistics:

>> Twenty percent of dieters are trying to lose 50 pounds or more. The average weight loss goal is 37 pounds. Twenty-six percent are trying to lose 20 to 29 pounds.

>> Nine million consumers -- 10 percent of the U.S. population -- attempting to lose weight have turned to weight loss supplements or pills. Use of supplements or pills was most prevalent among those under 35 years of age (15 percent).

>> Of those surveyed, 75 percent are optimistic that they'll reach their weight loss goal, but 72 percent of those currently trying to lose weight have also tried in the past. Only 28 percent of those attempting to lose weight are doing so for the first time.

>> Forty-four percent of dieters are motivated by the desire to improve their health. Thirteen percent are dieting to improve their appearance, and 6 percent are dieting because their doctor advised them to lose weight.


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