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The South Beach diet is promoted primarily for weight control, and its author, a cardiologist, claims it has helped many people lower their risk for heart disease and diabetes.
Advocates of the South Beach diet contend that people eating a typical Western diet need to abstain from most carbohydrates at the beginning of a diet in order to break the cycle of cravings for carbohydrate foods, and to cause a significant loss of weight early in the diet.
Similar to advocates of a low-glycemic-index diet, they also claim that human physiology is not designed to tolerate the rapid and prolonged elevations in blood sugar and insulin caused by the abundance of processed, high-glycemic-index foods in the typical Western diet. Research does suggest that excessive high-glycemic-index foods, high insulin levels, and the resulting insulin resistance is associated with many health concerns, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. Moreover, changing to a low-glycemic-index diet has been shown in most studies to reduce insulin resistance, help control appetite, improve weight-loss results, enhance blood sugar control in diabetics, lower blood levels of total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and raise blood levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
As do advocates of a Mediterranean-type diet, they also claim that most fats from plant sources or fish are healthy, especially when they are high in unsaturated fats that contain no trans fatty acids produced by the process of hydrogenation. These dietary fats and their food sources are considered compatible with good health and disease risk reduction. Research has found that fish, nuts, olive oil, and other foods high in unsaturated fats that are free of trans fatty acids are associated with protection from hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), heart disease, insulin resistance, and other health concerns.
Some authorities, including the American Diabetes Association, do not agree with the concept of a crucial role for the glycemic index in diets designed to help people lose weight and avoid heart disease and diabetes. Critics concede that dieters who avoid most carbohydrates often experience significant weight loss during the initial stages of the diet; however, these critics argue that low-carbohydrate diets like the South Beach diet often have a diuretic effect and that the initial weight loss is due to water loss, not fat loss. Eventually the body restores its water and sodium balance, and the rate of weight loss declines.
Some authorities are concerned that diets that allow unlimited consumption of fats, even healthy fats, may result in excessive calorie intake, which could result in poor weight-loss results or even weight gain.
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The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2016.