“Lose 10 pounds in 10 days!” As a nutrition professor, I know better than to believe the ultra-fast weight-loss claims that proliferate as bathing-suit season peaks. I admit, some of the ads sure sound compelling. I’ve long wondered if any of the products that promise to “zap fat like magic” might have a kernel of truth. My friend Jane nips weight gain in the bud with a once-a-year three-day juice fast; it seems to work for her—but what does the science say? Full of hopeful skepticism, I recently sorted through the more enticing claims.
We’re all guilty of overindulging sometimes—an extra helping of potatoes here, a wedge of key lime pie there. But loading up on calories forces your body into overdrive as it tries to deconstruct the damage. “Just metabolizing food—especially fatty and carbohydrate-rich fare—causes the body to produce free radicals, which attack cells and can promote the development of chronic conditions including heart disease, diabetes and cancer,” says Ronald L. Prior, Ph.D., research chemist and nutritionist with the USDA at Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center.