It’s that time of year again. Whether you’re planning a New Years trip to the beach, contemplating this year’s resolutions, or still recovering from Thanksgiving leftovers, you might be contemplating a long list of diet options.
Though research on dieting seems to converge on the advice to exercise and eat high-quality foods in predictable, moderate portions—American consumers have a long and complicated history with dieting and its latest trends.
According to Google Trends, the five most-searched and potentially most popular diets in 2019 were: “intermittent fasting,” “Dr. Sebi,” “Noom,” “1,200 calories” and “GOLO.” Here’s what they’re all about and whether they’re any good.
Intermittent fasting diet
Intermittent fasting (IF) is the practice of confining meals to certain timeframes. Common methods involve fasting for 16 hours once per day or 24 hours twice per week, but less restrictive windows—like keeping meals between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.—have also been associated with decreased appetite and blood pressure, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
Abstaining from food and snacks for longer periods of time allows insulin levels to go down, prompting fat cells to release their stored sugar for energy that, when not used, translates to fat.
Dr. Sebi diet
A vegan regimen, the Dr. Sebi diet asks participants to stick to a shortlist of vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, seeds, oils, herbs and supplements, according to Healthline. These dieters are also supposed to drink a gallon of water each day and avoid alcohol, wheat products and microwaves.
According to the late Alfredo Bowman (also known as “Dr. Sebi”), the approach rids the body of toxic waste and strengthens it against disease, but these claims have been widely discredited.
The Noom approach is supposed to end “yo-yo,” or inconsistent, dieting through changing food behaviors and impulses, according to its website. It relies on a mobile application that assigns users to a “coach” and holds them accountable to “red” and “yellow” foods, which are not dense in nutrients despite their calorie count—as opposed to “green” foods, which are.
The membership will run users about $50 per month, but almost 80 percent of 35,921 Noom participants surveyed lost weight in one study published in Nature.com’s Scientific Reports.
1,200 calories diet
This a restrictive diet that limits people’s daily intake to 1,200 calories. Larger people, men, active individuals, breastfeeding or pregnant women, and those with certain medical conditions in particular need more than this amount, according to Medical News Today.
While some research suggests that lower-calorie diets can provide health benefits and weight loss—the body can’t store as fat what it doesn’t consume—other research shows that metabolic rates can slow when people eat less over time, thus making weight loss more difficult in the long run.
GOLO takes a somewhat anti-diet approach to dieting, according to its website. Instead of restricting calories, this diet encourages the consumption of low-glycemic foods that supposedly increase users’ metabolic rate. It also promotes a supplement made from plant extracts that help regulate blood sugar levels and cravings.
Metabolism, the internal process by which bodies burn calories for energy, is largely determined by a person’s genes, according to countless studies on the subject. That said, a combination of high-intensity interval training, protein and weight training can manipulate metabolism to a degree, according to Harvard Health Publishing.