A review outlines the strengths and weaknesses of popular weight loss strategies, including the Paleo diet, juicing, intermittent fasting, and HITT.
The global obesity epidemic continues to present an immediate concern in current health studies. Addressing obesity also means addressing preventative or weight management plans that seek to reverse the epidemic. One such study, published in Current Gastroenterology Reports, reviews the efficacy of four popular weight loss strategies: juicing/detoxification, intermittent fasting, the Paleolithic diet plan, and high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Obert and colleagues outline the strengths and weaknesses of these plans as they relate to the increasing rates of obesity among adults and adolescents alike.
Juicing and Detoxification Diets
Juicing and detoxification diets are still categorized as fad diets according to Obert and remain unproven in the scientific spectrum of reliability. A review of the associated literature yields limited results outside of testimonials from practitioners. What little research there is indicates that this diet can lead to rapid weight loss, but most often leads to rapid rebound weight gain, and comes with some potentially serious side effects. Researchers examined the restrictive nature of the diet and found it to be dangerous in certain health matters related to kidney function and cortisol levels.
Despite being a model of dietary intake since the days of hunting and gathering, intermittent fasting has only recently gained a bigger foothold in the contemporary diet scene. Intermittent fasting consists of periods of not consuming any calories are followed by normal caloric intake. Both of these periods can vary drastically between diets in terms of the caloric intake or fasting windows. The results of animal studies have been promising. With limited human studies for comparison, only conjecture can be made as to the results of following such a diet.
The Paleo Diet
The Paleolithic diet models itself after the types of foods that humans living during the Stone Age would have had access to, hence the name “Paleolithic diet”. Although considered a fad diet, a study conducted with 70 post-menopausal women suggested initial improvement in overall nutritional profiles for those who adhere to the dietary structure. However, these studies are too short to portray an accurate picture of extended dietary adherence. The Paleolithic diet can lead to weight loss, improved lipid profiles and increased glucose sensitivity (which leads to decreased glucose consumption), but can be expensive, difficult to maintain for the long term, and also comes with side effects including very low calcium intake.
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
Perhaps the most promising among these weight loss strategies according to the literature review is HIIT. Embraced by top-tier athletes, the training consists of short, maximum intensity work followed by periods of rest. A study by Hazell and colleagues demonstrated successful fat loss in a group of 20 women that followed a 20-minute HIIT session three times a week over a six-week period. The literature review for HIIT provides strong enough evidence to be beneficial across all diets reviewed, but those with physical limitations that hamper movement may not benefit as much.
Written by Cooper Powers, BSc
(1) Obert, J, Pearlman, M, Obert, L, Chapin, S. (2017). Popular Weight Loss Strategies: a Review of Four Weight Loss Techniques. Current Gastroenterology Reports, 19(61). Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1007/s11894-017-0603-8
(2) Hazell T, et al. (2014). Running sprint interval training induces fat loss in women. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. 39(8), 944-950.