The Truth About Popular Weight Loss Claims

There seems to be a new weight loss craze every other week. Protein, low carb, grapefruit, milk, and nuts have all had their share of the limelight on the diet circuit. But what's the bottom line? We investigated 13 of the boldest claims to find what's true and what's not.
  • Weight Loss Claim: People who savor a bowl of soup at the beginning of a meal tend to consume fewer calories during the whole meal.

    Verdict: True. Soup -- which is largely liquid -- causes a feeling of fullness, so you eat less the rest of the meal. Just go easy on high-calorie and high-fat cream-base soups.

    Try our favorite soups and stews.

  • Claim: Dairy products promote weight loss.

    Verdict: False. A glass of low-fat milk with breakfast, a cup of yogurt for a snack, and a slice of part-skim cheese on your sandwich makes good nutrition sense when you're trying to lose weight, but don't expect it to melt those pounds away. Recent research is not sufficient to suggest drinking milk causes weight loss.

    Follow our 12 weight loss tips to keep you motivated.

  • Claim: Grapefruit melts fat.

    Verdict: Not quite true. While grapefruit doesn't contain a magical fat-burning enzyme, new research suggests eating half a grapefruit with meals might promote weight loss. If nothing else, this low-calorie, high-vitamin fruit can help you feel fuller, so you eat less.

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  • Claim: A good belly laugh might trim inches off your waist.

    Verdict: True. Research shows that just 15 minutes of laughter can burn 40 calories. So the next time you rent a movie, make it a comedy. How's that for an easy workout?

  • Claim: Follow a Mediterranean diet and you'll lose weight.

    Verdict: True. A calorie-controlled diet based on plant-based Mediterranean foods such as olives, avocados, and nuts can be effective for weight loss. In one study, those eating a moderate-fat Mediterranean-style diet were better able to stick with their plan and keep off the weight over the long term than people following a regular low-fat diet.

    Check out these fish and seafood recipes.

  • Claim: People who fidget weigh less than people who don't.

    Verdict: True. Research confirms that people who tap their feet, rock back and forth, or pace the room burn more calories than those who sit still.

  • Claim: Wearing a pedometer will help you lose weight.

    Verdict: True, as long as you actually use it! To walk the now-recommended 10,000 steps a day (double the average steps people currently take), experts advise wearing a pedometer to serve as a visual reminder to get moving.

  • Claim: Eating a high-protein snack like nuts helps you lose weight.

    Verdict: True, but only in moderation. Experts who study the health benefits of nuts say a small snack of almonds is filling and can help to prevent overeating. Replacing your afternoon snack with a handful (about 1/4 cup) of almonds adds fiber and protein to your diet and makes you feel full.

    Try our top low-carb snack ideas.

  • Claim: People who get a good night's sleep weigh less.

    Verdict: True. Research shows that the less people sleep, the greater their body weight. In one study, subjects who slept the least had the lowest levels of leptin, a hormone that suppresses food intake and fires up metabolism. Aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep a night.

  • Claim: Eating six small meals a day is better than eating three larger meals.

    Verdict: False. Experts say it doesn't matter when the calories are consumed. What matters is the total number of calories. Eating more calories -- no matter how they're spread in the day -- will cause you to gain weight, eating fewer calories will cause you to lose.

  • Claim: Eating meals from a smaller plate decreases the amount of food you eat.

    Verdict: True. Eating is a visual experience just as it's a taste and smell experience, and many people like to see a full dinner plate. Choosing a plate that's 9 inches in diameter or smaller will satisfy your senses and keep portion sizes in check.

  • Claim: People who eat breakfast eat less overall than those who skip it.

    Verdict: True. In a recent study, 10 women ate breakfast for a two-week period, then were asked to forgo it for another two weeks. The breakfast skippers consumed an average of 100 calories more during the day. Participants in the National Weight Control Registry, which tracks individual weight loss efforts, claim breakfast helps them keep off the weight.

    Try our tasty and healthful breakfast recipes.

  • Claim: People who keep a weight loss diary have more success losing weight and keeping it off.

    Verdict: True. Over time, successful dieters say that recording the food they eat and the exercise they do is key to losing unwanted pounds and keeping the weight off.

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