To Fast or Not to Fast?
"Rapid weight loss", "quick and easy weight loss", "preventative", "therapeutic" and "low cost"; with these guarantees, who would not want to attempt a seemingly unchallenging fasting diet!? According to a report on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) web site, as of 1995, tens of millions of Americans are dieting at any given time, in the process spending more than $33 billion annually on weight-reduction products. Are you playing the weight loss game? Here I will identify weight-loss programs advertised on the internet, discuss their claims to success, highlight specific fallacious claims, and report on findings of both the FDA and various medical studies.
What’s on the Web?
A collection of "easy" fasting or very low-calorie weight loss plans advertised on the world wide web includes the following: California Dreaming, The Wellness Center of Alaska’s "weight loss on-the-web", Medifast, Optifast, 4 Season Weight Control Center’s "medically supervised weight loss program", Liquid Fasting Diet, All-natural Aspen Spa diet program, and various methods compiled by Fasting Center International.
As an example of programs guaranteeing a quick fix to weight problems, I will focus on both the Medifast and Fasting Center International (FCI) methods and claims concerning weight loss.
According to the Shape Up America web site, a supporter of the Medifast product, it is a "physician-supervised very low-calorie diet program of fortified meal replacements providing 450-500 calories per day". (http://www.shapeup.org/sua/publications/hwhl/partax9c.html) The purpose of Medifast is to promote quick and healthy weight loss to its customers by creating a great deficit between the number of calories used per day and the number of calories taken into the body. The fasting and weight-loss phase of the program lasts 16 weeks, followed by only 6 weeks of "realimentation", or transition back to regular foods. To qualify for the very low-calorie plan, a client must be at least 30 percent above ideal body weight and have a relatively stable medical history. However, the 860 calorie-per-day program is open to all clients.
The Medifast program, in collaboration with both the Shape Up America and Wellness Center of Alaska web sites, makes a number of intriguing claims. The first web site claims that average weight loss is three to five pounds per week. You "must rely on Medifast products during the weight-loss phase", says Shape Up America, and then you will see that the low-calorie level of the program promotes fast weight loss.
"Start now, lose 25 lbs. in Six Weeks", reads the heading of the Wellness Center of Alaska Medifast information page. (http://www.alaska.net/~medifast/) Using Medifast, the company claims that they have created "a unique R.N. supervised weight loss and maintenance program suited for individuals who do not have the time to visit a weight loss center...