Background: Research has shown micronutrient deficiency to be scientifically linked to a higher risk of overweight/obesity and other dangerous and debilitating diseases. With more than two-thirds of the U.S. population overweight or obese, and research showing that one-third are on a diet at any given time, a need existed to determine whether current popular diet plans could protect followers from micronutrient deficiency by providing the minimum levels of 27 micronutrients, as determined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administrations (FDA) Reference Daily Intake (RDI) guidelines.
Methods: Suggested daily menus from four popular diet plans (Atkins for Life diet, The South Beach Diet, the DASH diet, the DASH diet) were evaluated. Calorie and micronutrient content of each ingredient, in each meal, were determined by using food composition data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. The results were evaluated for sufficiency and total calories and deficient micronutrients were identified. The diet plans that did not meet 100% sufficiency by RDI guidelines for each of the 27 micronutrients were re-analyzed; (1) to identify a micronutrient sufficient calorie intake for all 27 micronutrients, and (2) to identify a second micronutrient sufficient calorie intake when consistently low or nonexistent micronutrients were removed from the sufficiency requirement.
Results: Analysis determined that each of the four popular diet plans failed to provide minimum RDI sufficiency for all 27 micronutrients analyzed. The four diet plans, on average, were found to be RDI sufficient in (11.75 +/- 2.02; mean +/- SEM) of the analyzed 27 micronutrients and contain (1748.25 +/- 209.57) kcal. Further analysis of the four diets found that an average calorie intake of (27,575 +/- 4660.72) would be required to achieve sufficiency in all 27 micronutrients. Six micronutrients (vitamin B7, vitamin D, vitamin E, chromium, iodine and molybdenum) were identified as consistently low or nonexistent in all four diet plans. These six micronutrients were removed from the sufficiency requirement and additional analysis of the four diets was conducted. It was determined that an average calorie content of (3,475 +/- 543.81) would be required to reach 100% sufficiency in the remaining 21 micronutrients.
Conclusion: These findings are significant and indicate that an individual following a popular diet plan as suggested, with food alone, has a high likelihood of becoming micronutrient deficient; a state shown to be scientifically linked to an increased risk for many dangerous and debilitating health conditions and diseases.