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South Beach Diet®


Also listed as: Diet, South Beach
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Related Terms
  • Arthur Agastston, carbohydrates, diet, fad diets, low carbohydrate.

  • The South Beach Diet® was created by Dr. Arthur Agastston, a cardiologist, in the mid 1990s. Dr. Agatston was in disagreement with the American Heart Association's recommendations that the American diet should consist of low-fat, high-carbohydrate foods.
  • The South Beach Diet® is a low-carbohydrate diet. Low carbohydrate diets aim to avoid carbohydrates that spike insulin levels in the body. When a carbohydrate is high in "bad" carbohydrates, a large burst of insulin is released from the pancreas in response to a drastic elevation in glucose in the blood stream. The high insulin levels do not allow glucose to be converted into glucagon, the form of sugar that allows for fat to be used as energy. Instead, these high insulin levels promote the storage of fat in the body. Proponents believe that by avoiding these carbohydrates, individuals could avoid the storage of additional fat as well as allow for current fat stores to be used as energy.
  • Opponents of the South Beach Diet® claim that the diet contains far too many saturated and unsaturated fats. This could lead to serious health risks. However, available research has not supported this claim.


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  • Recent studies have shown that patients placed on low-carbohydrate diets such as the South Beach Diet® lost more weight than similar patients placed on low-fat diets such as the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) diet or the American Heart Association diet. Additionally, these patients also had greater decreases in triglyceride levels at the end of the studies. Other studies have duplicated these results and suggested that these low-carbohydrate diets not only increase weight loss but also decrease markers for cardiovascular disease, for example LDL cholesterol levels.
  • Experts say that even though this diet may be healthier than other low carbohydrate diets because it includes most of the major food groups, most of the weight lost in the first phase is water weight. These experts say that losing too much water can throw electrolytes out of balance. If you are following this diet, you should work closely with a dietician or another qualified healthcare provider.
  • The extreme carbohydrate restriction in the first phase may make you feel weak and will require serious willpower and will cut out a good source of fiber, vitamins and minerals. The elimination of fruits in the first phase also leaves you without the important vitamins and minerals they contain.
  • Experts that disagree with the diet also suggest that the expected 8 to 13 pound weight loss in the first two weeks is too much. Most experts recommend weight loss at 1 to 2 pounds per week.

  • The South Beach Diet® consists of three phases: 1) kick-starting your weight loss, 2) reintroducing the right carbohydrates, and 3) a diet for life. Phase 1 is intended to be followed for 2 weeks. Phase 2 is intended to last for as long as necessary to lose thedesired amount of weight. Phase 3 is then about maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Phase 1 of the South Beach Diet® involves eating three balanced meals with snacks. The snacks are mandatory with this diet even if you are not hungry. The purpose of making snacks mandatory is the hope that it will prevent you from overeating at the next meal. Foods that should be consumed in the first phase of the diet include lean meats such as chicken, turkey, fish, shellfish in addition to eggs, cheese (preferably low fat cheese), nuts, tofu, beans, and an abundance of vegetables. Foods that should be avoided during the first phase include bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, baked goods and fruit. Additionally, no candy, cake, cookies, ice cream, sugar, or alcohol of any sort should be consumed.
  • During phase 2, an individual will be able to reintroduce foods with good carbohydrates into the diet. In theory, good carbohydrates will not produce significant increases in insulin and therefore, will not promote fat storage. These foods are fruits, whole-grain breads and pastas. The diet recommends reintroducing these carbohydrates slowly by picking one food to add back to one meal per day.
  • Phase 3 is the final phase of the diet and is typically the maintenance phase. This phase is where the principles of phase 1 and 2 should continue to be applied. Phase 3 primarily focuses on a lifestyle of healthy food decisions.

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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.

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