A New Warning on Fad Diets Issued : American Dietetic Assn. Launches Attack on Quackery

Overweight Americans worried about reports that they may be prone to disease and a shortened life span should not react by turning to fad diets, warns the nation's largest group of nutrition professionals.

The Chicago-based American Dietetic Assn., representing 50,000 dietitians and nutritionists, says the new warnings that cite increased health risks for those who are 20% overweight should not trigger consumers to rush out and squander money on worthless diet products.

A panel of experts of the National Institutes of Health is recommending that anyone exceeding ideal weight by 20% seek treatment. Previously, experts thought obesity should be treated only if it exceeded 40% above desired weight.

Reactions to Recommendation

"The new recommendation is a wise one given the problems associated with obesity," said ADA President Donna R. Watson. "But we're hoping it doesn't encourage people to run out and buy those useless powdered diet supplements or super miracle diet pills."

The ADA recently began a nationwide attack on "diet quackery," claiming that not only are millions of dollars wasted each year on weight-loss fads, but consumers who fall for the gimmicks are threatening their health.

'Obesity Is a Disease'

"People who are 20% above their ideal weight are usually the ones who joke that they've lost 100 pounds in the last year--the same 10 pounds over and over again," Watson said. "For these people, obesity is a disease and not something that should be treated lightly with remedies advertised in magazines and newspapers."

Those who are more than 20% above their ideal weight should consult a registered dietitian or their physician for a sound treatment plan, consisting of a realistic diet that does not lead to deprived feelings, says the ADA. Diet failure usually can be traced to binge eating after a dieter experiences depression from semi-starvation.

The plan also must include techniques for breaking bad eating habits that lead to the weight problem in the first place. If it doesn't, chances are the dieter will regain any lost weight.

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