(Cross-posted from my LiveJournal)
If you haven’t heard about the “Açaí Berry / Colon Cleanse” diet rage, you’re either a luddite or have been living in a cave somewhere.
It astonishes and saddens me that people in the 21st century continue cheerfuly sending money to scammers in the hopes of getting something for nothing, or losing weight without effort.
Enough, already. This particular scam, which has flooded infomercials, targeted advertising and AdSense slots, and promoted (like just about every other fraud, as having been seen on Oprah, MSNBC, and the Dark Side of the Moon), is
a) unadulterated horse-hockey that redlines the BS-meter, and
b) potentially harmful to your health.
So here are a few facts.
1) People want your money, they don’t care about your health, and you are being lied to. The outright dishonesty with which this “miracle diet” is promoted should be enough of a red flag to send anyone with half a brain screaming in the opposite direction. Want some examples? Check out the açai scams update at Waffles At Noon. The deception goes many, many layers deep. Look up “açai berry scams”, and most of the links either take you to more product websites, or fraudulent E-zine articles or “blogs” which look like “unbiased” reviews. The depth and breadth of advertising fraud is absolutely heart-stopping, and it’s “all about the Benjamins, baby.”
2) There is nothing special about the açaí berry. Antioxidants are good. Virtually thousands of randomized, double-blind, placebo-based studies published in JAMA, Lancet and other mainstream medical journals show that free-radical scavengers help improve overall health. Fruits are full of antioxidants. The açaí berry is a fruit. Just like strawberries, kiwis, oranges, grapefruits, pomegranates, mangosteens, ningxia wolfberries, and you name it. When consumed as part of a balanced diet, they’re all good for you. But there is nothing “miraculous” about this or any other fruit.
3) Colon cleansing is unnecessary and potentially harmful. Your colon is an amazing apparatus. With the exception of abnormal medical conditions such as fecal impaction due to longstanding constipation, or intestinal torsion, your colon cleanses itself efficiently and regularly. If you do a colon cleanse, you’re likely to lose a few pounds as the result of clearing out two days worth of food in your system, but as soon as you start eating again, it will come right back. Colon cleansing on a regular basis can disrupt the natural intestinal flora, and impair the colon’s natural ability to regenerate its lining. A diet rich in soluble and insoluble fibers is all your body needs to keep your colon happy, and doing what it does best – absorbing nutrients and expelling wastes.
4) Detoxification is something your body does all by itself. There are three ways the body handles toxins. It can store them, neutralize them, or excrete them. Adequate fiber in the diet increases the motility of the bowel, reducing transit time and thereby decreasing the amount of time any potential toxins are present in the colon, thus reducing reabsorption. An adequate supply of vitamins, minerals and co-factors in the diet ensure that the liver is given all the tools it needs either to convert toxins into harmless compounds, or conjugate them with other molecules, rendering them less toxic, and eject them along with the bile.
So if you’re interested in releasing weight, what can you do?
Eat less, eat better, and exercise more. There, I’ve just saved you hundreds of dollars. There really is no other answer to sustained weight release.
A few pointers:
Eating is fun. We like to eat tasty, appetizing and satisfying foods. And you can, and still lose weight. One of my favorite books (with which I have no affiliation or financial interest) is Picture Perfect Weight Loss. While I don’t necessarily recommend this specific program above certain others, if you want an eye-popping look at really yummy, healthy eating alternatives, this is a good book to keep around. It will get you thinking along the right lines.
Low-glycemic eating makes sense. Low-Carb diets are bad for you. Carbohydrates are your body’s primary energy source, and robbing your body of carbs makes it turn to secondary sources of energy which can have deleterious effects on your overall health. However, as a nation we are addicted to high-density carbs which have the effect of rocketing our blood sugar into the stratosphere. When this happens, a chain-reaction of events takes place:
a) Your body releases insulin to bring the blood sugar down to normal.
b) Because this is a “red alert” reaction, blood sugar levels tend to fall below healthy levels.
c) In response to this, your body releases a cascade of hormones to promote conversion of fat into glucose, and also stimulate your appetite.
d) You typically reach for something quick, unhealthy and satisfying – and the cycle starts all over again.
Thus we find ourselves in a constant blood sugar loop of spike and crash, spike and crash – and as we do so, our insulin levels become elevated over time. Since insulin is your body’s primary fat-storage hormone, hyperinsulinemia is effectively telling your body to store fat no matter what else you do. This is the main reason people fail at weight loss: they are carb-addicted and can’t break the sugar-spiking cycle.
Your body does best when blood-sugar levels are kept in a very narrow band just above your fasting glucose baseline. To do this, choose foods that have a glycemic index below 55, and a glycemic load below 10, and eat smaller, more frequent meals. In addition to all the physical benefits of not spiking your blood sugar, such as reducing the arterial aging rate, it helps you stay satisfied and functions as a defense against binge eating.
Get Social Help If you want a commercial plan to help you along, I recommend Weight Watchers. (Again, I have no financial interest here.) I say this because their rates are reasonable, you don’t have to buy special foods, and because their plans (point-based or an essentially low-glycemic list of core foods) give you the flexibility you need to enjoy life and still be successful.
Exercise. Just do it. 5 times a week. Get off your duff and move, getting your heart rate up for 20 minutes at the very least, and your body will thank you for it.
Get adequate vitamin support. I’m not going to tell you what to take, because I happen to promote a specific solution and I’m trying to keep this unbiased. What I will tell you is that out of thousands of products on the market, there are only about 4 or 5 companies who provide an adequate balance of vitamins, minerals and co-factors for optimal health, and almost none of them are found on grocery-store shelves. Do your research. For a number of reasons, this is a critcal part of a good weight-release plan.
Drink plenty of water. Your liver is essential in weight-release. If you get dehydrated, your kidneys don’t function as well, and shift some of the detoxification process over to your liver, which is then less able to perform its fat-burning functions. 8 oz of water, 8 times a day is baseline, with an added 8 oz. per day for every 25 lbs of extra weight you are carrying.
As a nation, we’re obsessed with weight loss, because 30% of us are morbidly obese, and 65% of us are overweight. That means that the sleazeballs will come crawling out of the woodwork to sell you anything you’ll buy.
Do yourself a huge favor, and stay away from it all. There is no magic bullet.