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Diet Gurus Belly Up to the Debate Table

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But Woo says, "The unbiased academic would say that none of those diets are ideal. They are for diseased states. They're not good for the long haul. We have to remember that we're omnivores, that we should have balanced eating."

Ayoob had a similar view, saying that "the real issue is long-term weight management," with research telling us that "diets don't work." Any diet would work in the short-term, he said, as long as it cut calories.

The other diet gurus proposed varying plans. According to Bethea, co-creator of a low-sugar diet, eaters should not drink water with meals and should avoid potatoes, beets, corn, and carrots. But under Sears' "zone" approach, individuals should focus on eating fruits, vegetables, and low-fat proteins.

McDougall, supporter of a low-fat, starch-based diet, maintained that both plans were "semi-starvation" approaches, because they were too complex and would leave people hungry.

The diet program kings agreed on relatively little. But their consensus areas included that water and physical activity are crucial to weight loss and health, that Americans should eat less refined and processed food, that smaller meals throughout the day are best, and that Americans should generally eat less food.

Woo tells WebMD, "The message is moderation in everything. Avoid taking intensive saturated fats and fatty acids. Make sure that you're positive in your eating habits, that you get good variety, that you eat plenty of vegetables and fruits, and that you get enough protein and calcium."

After their debate, the pack of diet gurus completed their day like Washington politicians might -- by smiling and clustering together for an official photo with Glickman.

Vital Information:

  • Diet advocates meeting in Washington disagree on what a proper diet should be.
  • Although the presenters disagree on the types and proportions of foods that people should eat, the presenters noted that exercise and drinking water are key to good health and weight loss. Also, they agreed meals should be more numerous, but with smaller portions and fewer processed foods.
  • An observer notes that the presented diets work better for people with illnesses like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Balanced eating of different types of food, the observer says, is the best advice for long-term eating habits.
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