The information the company shares on their website and commercials is full of marketing speak, misleading claims, and fine print
Here’s what you need to know about the internet’s most-searched diet.
The GOLO diet was one of the most-Googled diets of 2016. But, if you’re one of the millions of Americans who scoured the internet for it, you’ve probably been hard-pressed to figure out exactly what this diet entails—we were, too.
"It’s gimmicky," says certified diabetes educator Jessica Crandall, R.D.N., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "The company behind the diet isn’t willing to put much information out there and the information it actually shares on their website and commercials is full of marketing speak, misleading claims, and fine print," she says.
In fact, most of what the company writes about the diet on its website (as of the publication of this article) is about how insulin, the hormone that delivers blood glucose into your muscles, liver, and fat cells, affects fat retention and weight loss, says Crandall. And while insulin resistance can cause obesity, prediabetes, and Type 2 diabetes, it can't be controlled the way the diet claims it can, says Crandall.
GOLO says its plan optimizes your insulin and prompts the body to release stored fat and reduce future fat storage by improving insulin performance and managing other key hormones related to weight gain.
However, the GOLO site doesn't actually explain how it "optimizes" your insulin or improves "insulin performance." That might be because there's no way to change how insulin "performs," says Crandall. Though you can increase your body's insulin sensitivity, that has nothing to do with the way insulin does its job, she says. In other words, "insulin performance" isn’t a thing, says Crandall.
As far as we can tell, no foods are flat-out banned on the diet, which is good, says Crandall. According to GOLO's site, the diet includes, "fresh meats, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats—and of course fresh breads, pasta, and butter." But unless you purchase the diet's booklets and a 30-, 60-, or 90-day supply of its Release weight-loss supplement (ranging from $40 to $90), it's not really clear what your portion sizes or calorie intake should be.
But let's get back to that supplement for a second: While it’s no secret that we aren’t fans of any weight-loss strategy that includes pills or "secret" supplements, the GOLO diet prides itself on its Release supplement, which contains "a blend of seven all-natural plant-derived ingredients from around the world and three minerals, each of which is backed by numerous studies supporting their safety and efficacy," according to the company website. And while the company site doesn't link to the studies confirming its safety, it's worth noting that the FDA doesn't regulate supplements, says Crandall. And since some studies have found questionable materials in dietary supplements, there's good reason to be suspicious.
The GOLO website boasts that the diet was designed by Keith Ablow, M.D., to help dieters lose weight without crash dieting. But, according to his personal website, Ablow is a psychiatrist rather than an internal medicine or weight-loss doc. That might explain why the plan also includes a booklet called "Truth & Change," which focuses on issues like emotional eating and goal setting. "It’s great that this diet seeks to promote a better relationship with food, which is vital to healthy and sustainable weight loss," Crandall says.
While GOLO cites multiple studies as proof that the diet program really works, the studies are paid for by the company and they were neither peer-reviewed nor published, making the results questionable.
The bottom line: A diet that includes a variety of foods, including whole grains and healthy fats, is a great part of any sustainable weight-loss plan, says Crandall. And aiming to lose one to two pounds per week is definitely the smartest way to go about losing weight. However, any plan that depends on supplements or pills is super sketchy.