Nutrition action health letter rates diet books

WASHINGTON-The best-selling diet book authored by talk-show self-help guru Dr. Phil McGraw is a "tough-love manual that relies more on Dr. Phil’s opinion than on science," but it at least recommends mostly healthful foods, according to the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). Dr. Phil’s line of expensive dietary supplements, shakes, and nutrition bars, on the other hand, are high on quackery and aren’t likely to help anyone lose weight, according to the cover story in the January/February issue of CSPI’s Nutrition Action Healthletter.

Dr. Phil’s program encourages dieters to spend $60 a month on a 12-pill-a-day regimen. He offers one set of supplements and vitamins for what he calls “pear” body types and another for “apple” body types. In addition, he recommends spending an additional $60 a month to swallow 10 more so-called “Intensifier” pills each day. But according to CSPI, none of those pills’ ingredients has been shown to promote weight loss.

“Dr. Phil’s pills are certain to lighten your wallet, but not your weight,” said CSPI senior nutritionist David Schardt.

Although Dr. Phil says his Shape Up! Shakes contain “scientifically researched levels of ingredients that can help you change your behavior to take control of your weight,” CSPI says that they’re just a run-of- the-mill powder made from milk, fiber, and vitamins. And his bars, made from sugars, oil, soy protein, fiber, and still more vitamins, seem formulated without the help of Dr. Phil’s book, The Ultimate Weight Solution, which declares sugars and fats “off-limits if you want to successfully control your weight.”

In its article about popular diet books, CSPI called The South Beach Diet by Arthur Agatston a “healthy version of the Atkins diet that’s backed by solid evidence on fats and heart disease.” Despite an unwarranted restriction on perfectly healthful foods like carrots, bananas, pineapple, and watermelon, CSPI says South Beach is the first popular weight- loss book in a long time to recommend a healthy diet.

CSPI criticized Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution for promoting diets heavy in red meat, long-term consumption of which may raise the risk of cancer and heart disease. Other diet books, including The New Glucose Revolution recommend mostly healthy foods, but overemphasize the importance of the glycemic index on weight loss, according to CSPI. “The glycemic index is much more complicated than most books pretend,” writes CSPI nutrition director Bonnie Liebman.

Another book, Eat Right 4 Your Type recommends different foods depending on one’s blood type and is “about as scientific as a horoscope,” according to CSPI. (For example, the book recommends that women with a family history of breast cancer consider eating more snails.)

The Fat Flush Plan, which like Dr. Phil’s book recommends a useless and expensive pill regimen, recommends reducing fatty deposits in thighs and arms by “cleansing your lymphatic system with a bouncing action or by moving your arms while walking briskly.” CSPI is all in favor of brisk walking, but says The Fat Flush Plan is a “kooky mishmash of old detox lore and new good-carb theory.”

Barry Sears’ Enter the Zone and Dean Ornish’s Eat More Weigh Less also recommend mostly healthy foods, but CSPI had some caveats with each.