The GOLO Diet Promises Weight Loss if You Buy Supplements—and That’s a Red Flag
- April 26, 2021
When you land on the GOLO diet’s website, you’re met with a before and after photo of a woman who claims to “feel great” after losing 112 pounds in one year. Right next to her is a man who dropped 131 pounds. He says, “GOLO changed my life!”
The secret behind their success? It wasn’t an intense workout or a low-carb eating plan. It was GOLO, a program that claims to help you lose weight sustainably by regulating your out-of-whack hormones—specifically insulin.
If your insulin levels aren’t what they should be, GOLO argues that you’ll struggle to lose weight even if you’re doing everything else right, like eating nutritious foods and moving regularly. By following their recommended eating plan (which can cost up to $100) and purchasing their supplements, GOLO promises to keep your hormones in check so you can lose weight and keep it off.
But is there any science to support these claims? Here, dietitians explain what to keep in mind before you go all in with GOLO.
Back up: Tell me more about the GOLO diet.
Again, GOLO is based on the concept that insulin, a hormone that helps regulate your blood sugar, can interfere with your ability to lose weight. Developing insulin resistance—i.e. when cells in your muscles, fat, and liver don’t respond well to insulin and can’t use glucose for energy—can cause your body to store fat and slow your metabolism, the GOLO website says.
And that’s where GOLO comes in. They claim that their plan will help followers lose weight by “balancing” hormones that impact weight, “controlling glucose” (a.k.a. blood sugar), “maintaining healthy insulin levels,” and “eliminating conventional starvation dieting.”
The diet itself is pretty simple: Nothing is banned and you’re encouraged to eat foods with “nutritionally dense calories” like fish, lean meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, and cheese.
What does the GOLO meal plan look like, exactly?
It’s important to note that unless you purchase GOLO’s booklets—The GOLO for Life Plan and Overcoming Diet Obstacles, which come with prices ranging from $49.95 to $99.90—it’s not exactly clear how or what you would eat in a typical day or what calorie recommendations look like.
Wait, I hear there are supplements you have to take?
Yep, GOLO also wants followers to take its Release weight loss supplements—which can run up to $100 for a 90-day supply. The supplement contains the minerals zinc, chromium, and magnesium, various plant extracts, a thickener, and citric acid. They do not contain soy, gluten, dairy, eggs, fish or shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, or wheat.
GOLO claims on its site that “anyone looking for steady and sustainable weight loss can benefit from Release,” pointing to “several studies” as their backing. While there are highlights from this research listed, GOLO doesn’t explain how the ingredients in their supplement support its promises, like regulating metabolism, slowing digestion, and reducing stress.
In general, GOLO recommends taking one supplement three times per day with your meals, increasing or reducing the dose depending on various factors (like if you’re having a stressful day or have excess belly fat, which have no concrete definitions).
They also make the lofty claim that their supplement is safe to take with medications, which is always a discussion you should have with your doctor, regardless of the pill you plan on taking.
The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate supplements, meaning it’s up to individual companies to ensure safety and efficacy.
So, can the GOLO diet help you lose weight?
The company has plenty of testimonials from people on its website and they point to studies online that they say prove the diet can help you lose weight. But—and this is a big but—the studies were paid for by GOLO and cannot be found on peer-reviewed databases, says Julie Upton, M.S., R.D., co-founder of nutrition website Appetite for Health.
GOLO says that the studies were “preliminary” and didn’t include a placebo control, meaning they didn’t compare the results people got with the GOLO diet against people who weren’t on GOLO. Translation: “There is absolutely no conclusive scientific evidence to support any of these claims,” says Keri Gans, M.S., R.D.N, author of The Small Change Diet, meaning it’s hard to tell whether or not the plan will actually work for you.
“There is absolutely no conclusive scientific evidence to support any of these claims.”
One potential perk is that the diet encourages fruits and vegetables, and doesn’t have a long list of foods to avoid “which is rather refreshing,” Gans says.
And given that it seems to follow a standard weight loss formula, you may drop some pounds. “Decreasing calories and consuming more whole foods like lean protein, fresh fruit, and vegetables is a great way to lose weight, which makes you more insulin sensitive,” says Scott Keatley, R.D., of Keatley Medical Nutrition Therapy.
As for GOLO’s claim that insulin resistance is the main reason why many people have trouble losing weight, Gans says it’s not quite that simple. “Bottom line: If you eat too many refined carbs than your body needs for energy, it will store the excess as fat,” she says. “So the insulin isn’t directly at fault. A person needs to better manage their meals to avoid spikes in blood glucose.”
And, if it wasn’t obvious, all of the registered dietitians we talked to are not fans of the supplements. “I always shy away from pills that have substances which have not been well studied,” Keatley says.
Bottom line: Experts say the GOLO diet isn’t worth your money.
“This is the TB12 of dieting plans,” Keatley says. “There is enough science to make this seem like a great idea but has all the hallmarks of pseudo-science.”
And the fact that you have to pay for this at all is a sticking point with Upton. “Any program that requires you to purchase their proprietary food or supplements, run—don’t walk—away from it!” she says.
Instead, she simply recommends focusing on eating more vegetables, fruit, and whole grains, and limiting low-quality food choices, like processed foods and refined carbs. “For 99% of people, that’s enough to help them lose weight and keep it off,” she says.
And if you really want to find a specific plant to follow, there are options out there that do have tons of peer-reviewed research to back up their claims, like the Mediterranean diet, DASH diet, and flexitarian diet.
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