Q: My friend went on an ultra-low-calorie diet through a weight-management clinic and spa, and lost about 100 pounds pretty quickly. Then he gained it all back. So he tried the diet again on his own and had a heart attack. What went wrong? — Anthony W., Aurora, Ohio
A: We can't say for sure without knowing more about his specific condition. He could have had heart disease or diabetes to begin with. But what we can tell you is that crash diets are dangerous because of the extreme changes that they can trigger in the body, affecting everything from mood and gastrointestinal function to heart health.
A recent study from the Oxford Centre for Magnetic Resonance in the U.K. used MRI imaging to discover what happens in the heart of an obese person who goes on a crash diet of 600 to 800 daily calories. What they found was that as the body starts to release its excess stores of fat into the blood, the amount of fat in the heart increases by 44 percent; in as little as one week, cardiac function deteriorates. By week eight of the diet, cardiac function starts to improve, but if someone has heart problems, like atrial fibrillation or clogged arteries, that immediate fat buildup in the heart could be fatal. You need a doc's guidance and maybe an 81-mg aspirin morning and night to decrease inflammation and clotting, which released fat can trigger.
Because going on one of these crash diets promises a quick fix, many people trying to shed pounds don't think about what can go wrong. But we know, and this study reinforces it: For major weight loss, slow and steady wins the race!
If you have 100 pounds to lose, think how long it took to put that on and give yourself two or more years to lose it. Then you can protect your heart, improve your health, and keep off the weight you lose for the long run.
Dr. Mehmet Oz is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Dr. Roizen is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at [email protected]