First it was fat — now it's sugar. But does limiting sugar intake affect weight loss as much as we think it does? This week, Shape takes a look at the latest low-sugar diet, which promises a 20-pound weight loss in as little as two weeks.
Just when things seem quiet on the diet front, a new book is released. The latest to catch my attention is Jorge Cruise’s The 100: Count Only Sugar Calories and Lose Up to 18 Lbs. in 2 Weeks. As I read the book’s front jacket, I became skeptical. How about promoting slow, gradual healthy weight loss, which is one to two pounds per week, like the majority of nutrition experts would agree on? A red flag was immediately raised, but I continued to read on anyway.
Cruise bases his entire book on the claim that "insulin is the main regulator of fat storage and mobilization, and we secrete insulin primarily in response to the carb content of the diet. The more carbs and the less fat, the more insulin you secrete and this affects weight." He groups almost all carbohydrates together into one group, regardless of fiber content or natural sugar vs. added sugar, and counts the calories from them.
Cruise allows 100 sugar calories per day, calculated by multiplying the grams of carbohydrates in a food item by four. For easy access, there is a list in the book of the most popular foods and a list of foods that are free, meaning you don't count those calories. He suggests that you can eat these 100 "sugar calories" any way you want to — but he also recommends keeping them to the end of the day so you don’t go over. Which, by the way, is really easy to do, especially if a medium apple, for example, will cost you 99 calories, a nonfat plain yogurt 52 calories, and a half cup of black beans 92 calories.
Find out if this diet is here to stay or just another fad after the break!
I have so many problems with his approach that I don’t even know where to begin. I will agree that insulin is a regulator of fat storage and mobilization and is secreted primarily in response to digestion of carbs. However, what it really comes down to is if the number of calories you take in and your activity level result in more calories than you need to maintain a healthy weight — only then will your cells get more glucose. And it is that glucose that your cells don't use that accumulates as fat, not glucose in general. And furthermore, carbs are needed to help the body oxidize fat, and if you follow a low-carb diet, it will affect the levels of oxaloacetate (a carb by-product) and actually slow down fat utilization.
In his book, Cruise also suggests a delayed breakfast — "basically a morning fast." He says if you wake up at 7, no need to eat right away — you can wait until 11 or skip it completely. Being the huge breakfast promoter that I am, this advice unnerved me. All my patients who have successfully lost and maintained weight loss have been breakfast eaters. And according the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), "successful losers" (those who have maintained a 30-pound or more weight loss for a year) are daily breakfast eaters as well.
Another unnerving recommendation is that there is no need for exercise on his plan. In my opinion, exercise is not only about weight loss, which thankfully Cruise agrees with, but it is also good for heart health and the prevention of diseases such as osteoporosis, plus it makes for an excellent stress reducer. The NWCR reports that 94 percent of successful losers increased their physical activity, with the most frequently reported form of activity being walking. Therefore, whenever I promote weight loss, I do encourage fitness as well and would have like that stressed more in his chapter "Forget to Exercise."
His meal plans look just like any other low-carb diet. Basically, if followed to the letter, I will agree you will lose weight, but mainly because you are restricting food groups — and I guarantee you will not be able to keep up with it for the long haul. Furthermore, if you are counting your sugar calories according to his "100 rule," it will be very, very difficult to consume any of the USDA recommendations for fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, or even low-fat dairy, all of which are based on current science to help Americans achieve optimal health and wellness.
Bottom line: start focusing on eating a well-balanced, portion-controlled diet that includes lean protein, high-fiber carbs, low-fat dairy, healthy fats, and plenty of fruits and veggies. Skip the 100 Diet and counting sugar calories, unless you want to gear up for the next trendy diet.