Research About the South Beach Diet
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Research About the South Beach Diet

The South Beach diet is a popular low-carbohydrate, low-glycemic and low-fat diet. Divided into three phases for a quick start to weight loss, an active weight loss phase and maintenance, total carbohydrate levels depend upon the diet phase. Know what this diet plan gets right and what it gets wrong, as well as the science behind the diet to make an educated choice about the weight loss plan that’s best for your body and lifestyle.


The South Beach diet relies upon the glycemic index to create a diet plan that incorporates lean protein, fresh vegetables, whole grains and fruits. There are three phases in the diet, according to the Mayo Clinic. Phase one lasts for two weeks and is the most severely restricted. During phase one, you consume no grains or fruits. In phase two, whole grains and some fruits are added back into the diet. Finally, phase three allows you to maintain your weight loss.


Arthur Agaston, MD., designed the diet to reduce cholesterol and improve insulin levels in his patients. Research on the South Beach diet has focused on several different issues, including cholesterol, metabolic issues and weight loss. The South Beach diet website claims that the diet reduces cholesterol and blood pressure, lowers the risk of diabetes and heart disease and allows for weight loss.

Cholesterol and Heart Disease

According to WebMD, clinical trials have shown a reduction in LDL cholesterol, or bad cholesterol, and an increase in HDL cholesterol, or good cholesterol, while on the diet. A study supported by the Agaston Research Institute compared the low-fat, calorie-reduced diet recommended by U.S. National Cholesterol Education Program to a reduced carbohydrate plan and found that weight loss was greater on a South Beach-type diet but that both diets produced improved cholesterol levels.

Metabolism, Insulin and Satisfaction

A 2007 study in the Journal of Nutrition, “A Carbohydrate-Restricted Diet Alters Gut Peptides and Adiposity Signals in Men and Women with Metabolic Syndrome,” instructed trial participants in both phase one and phase two of the South Beach diet. Reduced body weight, body fat percentage and waist size were accompanied by improved fasting insulin levels and increased satiation.


While the South Beach diet includes a variety of healthy foods, phase one of the diet does severely restrict carbohydrates. According to the Mayo Clinic, less than 20 grams of carbohydrates daily can lead to ketoacidosis. In extreme cases, ketoacidosis may cause coma or even death. As with any diet, you should check with your health care provider, particularly if you have special health concerns or considerations.

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