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RealSimple.com: Should You Try These Fad Diets?

Genetic Diet Testing

The trend explained: Born out of a field called nutrigenomics—the study of how the foods we eat can alter disease-causing genes—this new technology can tell you whether you have genes that may play a role in weight gain. Companies such as Newtopia screen your saliva for the genes, then recommend a diet (and sometimes supplements) tailored to your genetic “type.” For example, if your genes indicate that you don’t metabolize carbohydrates efficiently, you would get a
RealSimple
low-carbohydrate plan. The process is simple: You spit into a tube, send in your sample, and receive results in about two weeks. However, it’s not cheap ($399 for Newtopia). You can also sign up for ongoing telephone and Web coaching based on your results; prices start at $149 a month.

Expert opinion: “The connection between your diet and your genes is very complicated,” says Roussell. And while the test can give some general information, it’s not sophisticated enough to tell you that your genetic type will cause you to lose more weight if you eat, say, more cauliflower than carrots.

The bottom line: If you want to spend the money, it’s interesting, even fun, to see your customized results. But don’t forget the (less fun) truth about weight loss: No matter what your genes, to lose weight, you need to eat less and move more.



The Paleo Diet
The trend explained: Some experts believe that conditions like type 2 diabetes and obesity are so prevalent because our bodies weren’t designed to handle our typical modern-day diets, which are full of sugar, refined carbs, and processed foods. They argue that by eating what our ancient ancestors did—only things that we can hunt, gather, and grow—we can prevent or even reverse these diseases. The paleo diet emphasizes fish, meats, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. It does not include dairy, as paleo enthusiasts say we’re designed to drink only mother’s milk as infants, and most grains, which they say weren’t part of the human diet until the rise of modern-day agriculture.

Expert opinion: People who eat paleo do tend to lose weight rapidly. “When you lower your refined-carb intake, it changes how your body metabolizes fat,” says Roussell. And with the emphasis on fruits and vegetables, you’re getting more phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals on a paleo plan than you would eating a typical American diet (and probably enough calcium, if you consume plenty of leafy greens and add a supplement). Also, “when you reduce your consumption of starchy carbs, saturated fats [like those in red meat] have less of an impact on risk factors for heart disease than they do when you’re eating a higher-carb diet,” notes Roussell.

The bottom line: While the paleo diet could feel restrictive if you were used to enjoying bread and ice cream regularly, it’s nevertheless a sound plan.



Coconut Oil
The trend explained: Fans say that this rich oil (which solidifies at temperatures below 76 degrees Fahrenheit) may have metabolism-boosting benefits. It’s a dietary fat composed of medium-chain triglycerides, which, unlike the long-chain triglycerides found in some other oils, are used by the body for energy rather than being stored as fat. It has a nutty taste that works well for baking and sautéing. Some fitness and nutrition pros use it in place of butter on toast.

Expert opinion: The research on coconut oil is promising: One 2002 study published in The Journal of Nutrition showed that your body may expend more calories digesting medium-chain triglycerides than it does digesting longer-chain fatty acids. This means coconut oil could aid weight loss. And “it’s full of lauric acid, which can be antiviral and antibacterial,” says Virgin. Some experts say that lauric acid can also raise levels of “good” HDL cholesterol, though study results have been mixed.

The bottom line: Give it a try if you’re looking for a healthier alternative to butter and vegetable oil. As with any fat, keep an eye on portion size, says Los Angeles–based registered dietitian Ashley Koff. One tablespoon of coconut oil has about 115 calories, which is slightly more than butter. And choose the cold-processed, extra-virgin variety.

(Yasu + Junko)



The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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