BY AMY STOCKWELL
Over the past twelve months, Australians spent $827.1 million on low-calorie foods and shakes, diet cookbooks, weight loss guides, dietary supplements, food counselling services and surgery in an effort to slim down.
The weight loss industry is expected to blow out to more than $1 billion a year by 2015-16. Women over 30 are the biggest spenders, although men in the same age group are catching up.
With so much money at stake, it is unsurprising that diet companies will go to great lengths to get a slice of this consumer spending.
Just as an FYI, you should know that this post is brought to you by our partners at Fernwood Fitness. But all opinions expressed by the author are 100% authentic and written in their own words.
The challenge as health-conscious consumers is to know which eating plans, supplements and foods are the real deal and which are more likely to help you to lose your cash rather than weight.
The answer lies in paying close attention to the most up to date science – and giving a suspicious side-eye to the fads that make their way onto the market and into our magazines from time to time.
Many scientifically proven diets will tell you that they have ‘evidence’ to support them.
But be wary: one lab coat and a fat rat does not scientific evidence make.
So, before you do your dough, have a look at the claims and evidence behind your desired eating plan and make an informed call about whether it is likely to help you.
Firstly, a little something about science. Scientific evidence is a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment. So, if you are looking to see whether something is supported by science, what you are looking for is evidence that has been tested in large-scale experiments in a number of different studies (this is to prove that the results can be repeated).
Human trials should be random, have a control group (people who aren’t taking whatever is being tested) and blind (the subjects of the trial should not know whether they are taking the tested ingredient or whether they are getting a placebo). The evidence should also be “peer reviewed” – which means that they should be checked by other scientists.
So, if you find yourself thinking about a eating plan that purports to be a “scientifically proven diet”, consider taking these steps:
1. Think about the source of the information. Universities, governments, scientific bodies and journals are generally reliable sources. Wikipedia is actually not too bad because it generally has a wide number of sources and requires references – at the very least, it highlights when references for particular statements are not available.
2. Look very closely at the evidence. If the results that are being relied on have only been tested on animals (and not people), then give it a miss. If there were only a few people in a trial and they all took the ingredient being tested, then be sceptical. If the evidence has not been reported in a peer reviewed journal, then there’s a good chance you’re looking at something that cannot be considered scientific fact.
3. Consider the expertise of the author of the reports that the sellers of the product rely on. Give them a quick Google. Especially consider whether they are speaking outside their areas of expertise.