Counting Calories, Coming Up Short
Rather than strictly limiting a single macronutrient, such as carbohydrate or fat, a more balanced macronutrient approach may help you get important micronutrients while shedding pounds
According to the latest research, the most popular weight-loss plans, from Atkins to Ornish, may be leading you to come up short on vitamins and minerals necessary for good health.
Nutrition large and small
When people want to lose weight, they limit calories. Calories come from macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fat. They are "macro" because we eat them in amounts ranging from tens to hundreds of grams per day.
Micronutrients, on the other hand, are eaten in tiny quantities of micrograms to a few grams per day, and do not provide calories. This includes vitamins, minerals, and other phytochemicals, such as beta-carotene.
Decreased macronutrients means decreased micronutrients
Researchers collected nutrition information from 291 women enrolled in a weight-loss study. The women were randomly selected to follow one of four diets:
The women following three of the four diets were at risk for inadequate intake of the following micronutrients:
Compared to their usual diet, women on the Zone diet decreased their risk for low intake of vitamins A, E, K, and C and were not at increased risk for inadequate intake of other micronutrients.
Diet right, lose weight, and gain health
This study suggests that rather than strictly limiting a single macronutrient, such as carbohydrate or fat, a more balanced macronutrient approach may help you get important micronutrients while shedding pounds. Simply eating less overall, as promoted in the LEARN plan, may cause you to miss important micronutrients too.
To fill in the gaps when you're dieting, focus on:
Though it is generally advised to get micronutrients from your diet, taking a multivitamin supplement may help avoid deficiencies.
(Am J Clin Nutr; E-Pub Ahead of Print August 4, 2010)
Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by the New York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor.