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Popular Fad Diets

Your neighbor’s hooked on Keto. Your boss swears by the Mediterranean Diet. Your cousin’s lost ten pounds with intermittent fasting. And your best friend says she’s got to DASH. Which diets are good for weight loss? Which is sustainable long term?

In this podcast, Pam Riggs, Outpatient Nutrition Coordinator and
Registered Dietician Nutritionist at MarinHealth, breaks down the popular diets. Listen to learn the pros and cons of various eating styles from a nutrition professional and figure out what makes sense for you.
Popular Fad Diets
Pamela Riggs, MS, RDN, CSOWM
Committed to improving the quality of life for others, Pamela Riggs, MS, RDN shares her nutrition expertise and knowledge with empathy and compassion. She is a Registered Dietitian and in 2013 joined MarinHealthSM as a nutrition

Learn more about Pamela Riggs, MS, RDN

Bill Klaproth (Host):  Planning a dinner party is a lot more challenging than it used to be. One guest is on the Mediterranean diet, while another is on the DASH diet. The couple next door is strictly KETO and what’s this intermittent fasting we’ve been hearing about? How do you make sense of it all? So, what are these diets and what are the pros and cons of each? Well let’s find out with Pam Riggs, Outpatient Nutrition Coordinator and Registered Dietician Nutritionist at MarinHealth.

This is the Healing Podcast brought to you by MarinHealth. I’m Bill Klaproth. Pam, thank you so much for your time. It’s always a pleasure to talk with you. So, let’s get into these diets and let’s start with the KETO diet. What is the KETO diet?

Pamela Riggs, MS, RDN, CSOWM (Guest):  Good place to start because it’s very popular. And to be honest, this type of diet, it’s actually been around for a very long time. We’ve called it the Ketogenic diet and it’s been used in the past to help control seizures in children with epilepsy. Today, the KETO diet has become a popular weightloss diet. And it’s distinctive for its exceptionally low carbohydrate, high fat intake. And the premise is that a Ketogenic diet deprives your body of glucose which is the main energy source for all our cells. And we get glucose from eating carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables and whole grains. What happens is when you deprive yourself of that glucose, an alternative fuel called ketones is produced in our body fat stores and the idea is then you are breaking down body fat to fuel energy thus losing weight and body fat.

Host:  That makes sense. Okay so then, what are the pros of the KETO diet?

Pam:  If you look at some of the preliminary research studies, it has been found to have some beneficial effects on weightloss. People who follow a Ketogenic very low carbohydrate diet tend to lose weight more quickly. That may not be the best thing in the long term but in the short term, it seems to be beneficial for weightloss in that way.

Host:  And then how about the cons?

Pam:  I think there’s a number of downsides. One, following a very high fat diet for a long period of time is very difficult to maintain and extremely low carbohydrate intake ultimately can lead to feeling fatigue, irritable, headaches, constipation and we really don’t know what the long term health benefits would be over time or the detrimental affects on for example, heart disease which we know high fat diets are linked to heart disease. So, it’s also not really been shown to be more effective than other diets even for weightloss when you look at it over a longer period of time. So, maybe some short term benefits but long term, not so much and there’s risks again of not feeling so good. It’s not easy to maintain it and there are concerns about the long term health effects of a very high fat diet.

Host:  So, I’m hearing a lot about intermittent fasting. Tell us about that.

Pam:  Yeah, intermittent fasting is a big deal lately. It’s been used in a number of different ways but again, very popular for weight management and the idea is it’s based on a premise of a time restricted eating pattern. And the most popular types can be what we call a five day two day version which involves eating normally five days a week and then two days doing a severely limited calorie fast or what we call a 16 to 8 which means consuming normal food intake for a window of about eight hours. So, let’s say from 10 A.M. to 6 P.M. or from noon to 8 and then fasting eating nothing for the rest of those hours. So, 16 hours of fast.

Host:  So, then what are the pros of doing that? What are the benefits?

Pam:  So, when you fast for that period of time, the idea is that you are suppressing the body’s production of insulin which is a hormone that’s made by the pancreas that’s necessary for moving glucose or what – the fuel that we get from eating food into the cells in the body. So, when you are suppressing that glucose for a period of time, the body can begin to once again, it’s similar to ketogenic diet to start using fat to fuel our energy needs. So, there could be some benefit in weight management but also benefits for maintaining healthy blood sugar if you have diabetes, something like that. The pros are is you really are resting your body for a long period of time, those 16 hours where your body doesn’t have to digest and absorb and transport nutrients. It doesn’t have to produce these hormones like insulin to help with metabolism. So, the body can do what it needs to heal and repair as well as use our fat cells to release that energy to fuel ourselves.

Host:  What are the downsides or the cons to intermittent fasting?

Pam:  There’s not that much that is not good about it. And I think that the hardest part is can people actually do that. And a downside could be if you’re even doing a time restricted eating window eight hours, let’s say you are eating from 12 to 8 or 10 to 6, you still could consume a whole bunch of calories and it may not help you in terms of weight management. You can still overeat in those windows. So, I guess that could be a downside if people don’t get that concept for weight management, you still have to have an energy deficit, so you can’t just overeat in eight hours.

For the most part, I think it’s looking like it’s a good thing for us to give ourselves that long fasting period so our bodies can do what it needs to do to repair and heal. Think about it as our Circadian rhythms or our biological rhythms where we function best early in the day and then later in the day, things start to slow down. That’s when we are supposed to again, be at rest and rebuilding our body’s tissues. So, for the most part, I don’t really see any downside other than that you still can eat unhealthy and you can still eat too many calories within those time periods.

Host:  So, how about the Mediterranean diet another popular diet?

Pam:  Yeah, Mediterranean diet. I love this diet. And if you really look at the winning eating pattern, I would say for health reasons, Mediterranean style eating always comes out at the top and what does that mean? It’s kind of mimicking the way cultures eat in the Mediterranean population. So, it’s a very plant based diet, lots of fruits and vegetables, seafood, fish, healthy oils from olive oil, nut seeds, avocado. And it really is a very healthy eating pattern and it’s been connected to longevity, and overall good health and wellbeing when it comes to cardiovascular disease, even cancer, diabetes. So, quite a good eating pattern.

Host:  And how about the pros of the Mediterranean diet?

Pam:  I would say there’s been research studies supporting it to help reduce cardiovascular disease. It’s a very anti-inflammatory diet and inflammation has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, certain types of cancer. So, I think on that overall health benefit side of things, there’s a lot of good research supporting it being a overall healthful eating pattern.

Host:  And how about the downsides or the cons of the Mediterranean diet?

Pam:  I don’t think there’s too many cons. Other than it’s got to be something that people can embrace and follow as a lifestyle change. And so, for those folks who it seems foreign to eat a lot of seafood or they don’t like lots of fruits and vegetables and they think it’s going to be a hard one once again to maintain. And may be that downside is too really trying to understand what is a Mediterranean diet and how do I apply that to my everyday eating pattern.

Host:  And then I hear about this one. Tell us about the DASH diet.

Pam:  Yeah, what does DASH stand for? It’s an acronym for dietary approach to stop hypertension. So, that’s really its main purpose. It’s been used for people who have high blood pressure to have a positive impact in lowering blood pressure, helping people get off the pressure medications and again, it is a very healthful eating approach based on getting nutrient rich foods that provide a source of calcium and lots of vitamins and minerals and nutrients that are going to fuel our healthy cells. Lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, limited sweets, limited sodium intake from packaged and processed foods. So, it’s kind of a wraps in like a lot of dietary guidelines into one overall plan.

Host:  And then what are the, I know you said that it helps reduce hypertension. But what are the benefits or pros of the DASH diet?

Pam:  Yeah, so certainly has been shown to clinically lower blood pressure in folks that are hypertensive. It also provides such a good variety of healthy foods, fruits and vegetables and whole grains so it’s going to be high in fiber. You are going to get lots of different vitamins like vitamin A and C and iron and zinc and so it’s really nutrient rich which I think is on the pro side for sure.

Host:  And then how about the cons?

Pam:  I think the cons are is that it’s difficult to understand. If you Google the DASH diet, you’ll find kind of dietary guidelines and these number of servings of fruits and vegetables and this number of servings of whole grains and I just think it’s a little complicated for people to understand and again, implement without some kind of structure and support maybe from a Registered Dietician like myself. But there’s no downside from a health perspective. It’s certainly a healthful eating pattern as the Mediterranean diet is as well. I think a downside is it is just a little complicated to apply and there’s a version of it that is really restrictive on sodium intake, no more than about 1500 milligrams and although that’s a really great goal to achieve, I think it’s difficult for a lot of people to reduce the sodium to that level and be able to do it consistently. You really can’t have any added salt and you really need to be a good label reader and not use any canned and processed and packaged foods to keep the sodium level down that low. So, that’s the hard part about it I think.

Host:  Well, there you go, the KETO diet, intermittent fasting, the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet. This has really been informative and helpful Pam. Thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it.

Pam:  You’re welcome. And I appreciate the opportunity to be here.

Host:  That’s Pam Riggs and to learn more please visit And if you found this podcast helpful please share it on your social channels and check out the full podcast library for topics of interest to you. This is the Healing Podcast brought to you by MarinHealth. I’m Bill Klaproth. Thanks for listening.