Diet

In nutrition, diet is the sum of food consumed by a person or other organism. The word diet often implies the use of specific intake of nutrition for health or weight-management reasons (with the two often being related). Although humans are omnivores, each culture and each person holds some food preferences or some food taboos. This may be due to personal tastes or ethical reasons. Individual dietary choices may be more or less healthy.

Diet is the practice of eating food in a regulated and supervised fashion to decrease, maintain, or increase body weight. In other words, it is conscious control or restriction of the diet. A restricted diet is often used by those who are overweight or obese, sometimes in combination with physical exercise, to reduce body weight. Some people follow a diet to gain weight (usually in the form of muscle). Diets can also be used to maintain a stable body weight and improve health. In particular, diets can be designed to prevent or treat diabetes.

Diets to promote weight loss can be categorized as: low-fat, low-carbohydrate, low-calorie, very low calorie and more recently flexible dieting. A meta-analysis of six randomized controlled trials found no difference between low-calorie, low-carbohydrate, and low-fat diets, with a 2–4 kilogram weight loss over 12–18 months in all studies. At two years, all calorie-reduced diet types cause equal weight loss irrespective of the macronutrients emphasized. In general, the most effective diet is any which reduces calorie consumption.

A study published in American Psychologist found that short-term dieting involving “severe restriction of calorie intake” does not lead to “sustained improvements in weight and health for the majority of individuals”. Other studies have found that the average individual maintains some weight loss after dieting. Weight loss by dieting, while of benefit to those classified as unhealthy, may slightly increase the mortality rate for individuals who are otherwise healthy. Complete nutrition requires ingestion and absorption of vitamins, minerals, and food energy in the form of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Dietary habits and choices play a significant role in the quality of life, health and longevity.

A particular diet may be chosen to seek weight loss or weight gain. Changing a subject’s dietary intake, or “going on a diet”, can change the energy balance and increase or decrease the amount of fat stored by the body. Some foods are specifically recommended, or even altered, for conformity to the requirements of a particular diet. These diets are often recommended in conjunction with exercise. Specific weight loss programs can be harmful to health, while others may be beneficial and can thus be coined as healthy diets. The terms “healthy diet” and “diet for weight management” are often related, as the two promote healthy weight management. Having a healthy diet is a way to prevent health problems, and will provide the body with the right balance of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.

A healthy diet may improve or maintain optimal health. In developed countries, affluence enables unconstrained caloric intake and possibly inappropriate food choices. Health agencies recommend that people maintain a normal weight by limiting consumption of energy-dense foods and sugary drinks, eating plant-based food, limiting consumption of red and processed meat, and limiting alcohol intake.

Many people choose to forgo food from animal sources to varying degrees  for health reasons, issues surrounding morality, or to reduce their personal impact on the environment, although some of the public assumptions about which diets have lower impacts are known to be incorrect. Raw foodism is another contemporary trend. These diets may require tuning or supplementation such as vitamins to meet ordinary nutritional needs.

  • Low-fat

Low-fat diets involve the reduction of the percentage of fat in one’s diet. Calorie consumption is reduced because less fat is consumed. Diets of this type include NCEP Step I and II. A meta-analysis of 16 trials of 2–12 months’ duration found that low-fat diets (without intentional restriction of caloric intake) resulted in average weight loss of 3.2 kg (7.1 lb) over habitual eating.

  • Low-carbohydrate

Low-carbohydrate diets such as Atkins and Protein Power are relatively high in protein and fats. Low-carbohydrate diets are sometimes ketogenic (i.e., they restrict carbohydrate intake sufficiently to cause ketosis).

  • Low-calorie

Low-calorie diets usually produce an energy deficit of 500–1,000 calories per day, which can result in a 0.5 to 1 kilogram (1.1 to 2.2 pounds) weight loss per week. Some of the most commonly used low-calorie diets include DASH diet and Weight Watchers. The National Institutes of Health reviewed 34 randomized controlled trials to determine the effectiveness of low-calorie diets. They found that these diets lowered total body mass by 8% in the short term, over 3–12 months. Women doing low-calorie diets should have at least 1,200 calories per day. Men should have at least 1,800 calories per day.

  • Very low-calorie

Very low calorie diets provide 200–800 calories per day, maintaining protein intake but limiting calories from both fat and carbohydrates. They subject the body to starvation and produce an average loss of 1.5–2.5 kg (3.3–5.5 lb) per week. “2-4-6-8”, a popular diet of this variety, follows a four-day cycle in which only 200 calories are consumed the first day, 400 the second day, 600 the third day, 800 the fourth day, and then totally fasting, after which the cycle repeats. These diets are not recommended for general use as they are associated with adverse side effects such as loss of lean muscle mass, increased risks of gout, and electrolyte imbalances. People attempting these diets must be monitored closely by a physician to prevent complications.

  • Detox

Detox diets claim to eliminate “toxins” from the human body rather than claiming to cause weight loss. Many of these use herbs or celery and other juicy low-calorie vegetables.

  • Religious

Religious prescription may be a factor in motivating people to adopt a specific restrictive diet. For example, the Biblical Book of Daniel (1:2-20, and 10:2-3) refers to a 10- or 21-day avoidance of foods (Daniel Fast) declared unclean by God in the laws of Moses. In modern versions of the Daniel Fast, food choices may be limited to whole grains, fruits, vegetables, pulses, nuts, seeds and oil. The Daniel Fast resembles the vegan diet in that it excludes foods of animal origin. The passages strongly suggest that the Daniel Fast will promote good health and mental performance.

  • Nutrition

Weight loss diets that manipulate the proportion of macronutrients (low-fat, low-carbohydrate, etc.) have been shown to be more effective than diets that maintain a typical mix of foods with smaller portions and perhaps some substitutions (e.g. low-fat milk, or less salad dressing). Extreme diets may, in some cases, lead to malnutrition. Nutritionists also agree on the importance of avoiding fats, especially saturated fats, to reduce weight and to be healthier. They also agree on the importance of reducing salt intake because foods including snacks, biscuits, and bread already contain ocean-salt, contributing to an excess of salt daily intake.

  • How the body eliminates fat

When the body is expending more energy than it is consuming (e.g. when exercising), the body’s cells rely on internally stored energy sources, such as complex carbohydrates and fats, for energy. The first source to which the body turns is glycogen (by glycogenolysis). Glycogen is a complex carbohydrate, 65% of which is stored in skeletal muscles and the remainder in the liver (totaling about 2,000 kcal in the whole body).

  • Weight loss groups

Some weight loss groups aim to make money, others work as charities. The former include Weight Watchers and Peertrainer. The latter include Overeaters Anonymous and groups run by local organizations. These organizations’ customs and practices differ widely. Some groups are modelled on twelve-step programs, while others are quite informal. Some groups advocate certain prepared foods or special menus, while others train dieters to make healthy choices from restaurant menus and while grocery-shopping and cooking.

  • Food diary

A 2008 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine showed that dieters who kept a daily food diary (or diet journal), lost twice as much weight as those who did not keep a food log, suggesting that if you record your eating, you wouldn’t eat as many calories.