The voices that carry the farthest over the sea of diet recommendations are those of iconoclasts—those who promise the most for the least, and do so with certainty. Amid the clamor, Dr. David Katz is emerging as an iconoclast on the side of reason. At least, that’s how he describes himself. From his throne at Yale University's Prevention Research Center, where he is a practicing physician and researcher, said sea of popular diet media is the institution against which he rebels. It’s not that nutrition science is corrupt, just that the empty promises of memetic, of-the-moment diet crazes are themselves junk food. To Katz they are more than annoying and confusing; they are dangerous injustice.
You may feel trendy with a bottle of vitamin-enhanced water in your hand, but that brightly-hued liquid probably isn’t improving your health. Most vitamin-infused H20 is just colored sugar water with some vitamins tossed in—bad news when you consider that Americans take in about 355 calories of added sugar every day. If you want vitamins, get them from vitamin supplements or, better yet, from whole foods (wild salmon, for example, is loaded with energy-boosting vitamin B-12). And if you want water, get it from, well, water. Nature’s beverage is calorie-free, cost-free and will take care of all your hydration needs.
The macrobiotic style of eating has roots in Japan, but it's becoming popular around the world for a good reason: The primarily plant-based diet full of fruits, veggies, whole grains, and small amounts of fish could help ward off everything from heart disease and diabetes to cancer — mostly because you’re not eating sugar, processed food, or a ton of animal products.
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"The evidence that with knowledge already at our disposal, we could eliminate 80 percent of chronic disease is the basis for everything I do," Katz said. Just as he was finishing his residency in internal medicine in 1993, influential research in the Journal of the American Medical Association ("Actual Causes of Death in the United States") put diet on a short list of the lifestyle factors blamed for half of deaths in 1990. "Here we are more than 20 years later and we’ve made just about no progress."
The authors wanted to compare low-fat vs. low-carb diets, but they also wanted to study genetic and physical makeups that purportedly (their word) could influence how effective each type of diet will be for people. Previous studies had suggested that a difference in a particular genetic sequence could mean that certain people will do better with a low-fat diet. Other studies had suggested that insulin sensitivity may mean that certain people will do better with a low-carb diet.
What makes some grub extra satisfying? "Fiber and protein can help," says Barbara Rolls, author of "The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet." Getting more bang for your bite matters, too: Low-energy-density foods, which yield big portions for few calories, "allow you to eat more without gaining weight," Rolls says. Want some of that? Make room for these secret-weapon picks.
Many diets, including Atkins and the keto diet, fit into this umbrella. A typical low-carb diet limits carbs to less than 60 g daily, but this can vary, according to the Mayo Clinic. (15) In a September 2015 review published in PLOS One, people following low-carb diets saw modest weight loss — although study authors note that long-term effects of the diet require further research. (16)
So, in the midst of this unexpected positivity, I got an email from Pamela Peeke, M.D. She wanted to have a call and give me some advice. In a very unlike-me move, I did not get to the email. I'm very good about responding to email, which has to be one of the lamest brags of all time, but in a world full of ghosting, I'm proud of my prompt replies. But I messed up, and a week and a half later, I got another email. Dr. Peeke wanted to make sure I got her message.