As we begin a new year, resolutions about health, wellness, and weight loss may be on the forefront of our minds. We are bombarded with advice about which methods work best. Following is a deep dive into one such option – the GOLO diet – to help us decipher if their claims of losing weight and feeling great are legit.
“GOLOSE WEIGHT, GOLOOK GREAT, GOLOVELIFE”
This is the tagline for GOLO, a weight loss program I first saw advertised on TV during the local news.
Though I admit the commercial caught my eye, I wasn’t thrilled with the implication (and a not so subtle one) that I had to lose weight in order to love life and feel great about myself. But as skeptical as I was, I wasn’t going to share my frustrations with the Fountain Avenue Kitchen audience until I tried it (or at least investigated further!).
So here’s my objective review, and also, how to ultimately decide whether or not promises of weight loss from any company are worth pursuing.
The GOLO Package
GOLO’s philosophy is rooted in the theory that we have damaged our own metabolisms due to years of failed dieting attempts (partially true) and that future dieting will be fruitless unless we get our metabolism back in order.
In response, they developed a two-pronged approach, offering meal plans and nutrition advice (a standard diet which focuses on portion control, which foods to choose or avoid, and recipe ideas), along with a dietary supplement called Release, aimed at fixing one’s metabolism.
Cost varies depending on how many bottles of Release are purchased at one time, but packages start at $60 and include the diet plan.
Studies show this works – sort of…
On their website, GOLO advertises individual success stories as well as how the plan is backed by research. Simply click on the link to their studies and a page displays four studies as proof.
Unfortunately, none of the four studies hold much weight. I noticed many red flags while reading through each study in detail (I’m happy to review each one if you email me), but here are the standouts:
- The company funded and conducted all of its own research
- Each study sample size was very small (a maximum of 50)
- In one study, the supplement formula varied across participants
- One of the studies didn’t have a placebo arm
- Only one out of four of the studies was randomized
- One study followed only participants who had Type 2 Diabetes (and only 16 people completed it)
What about the supplement?
Release is a plant- and mineral-based dietary supplement containing the minerals magnesium, zinc, chromium, and the plant extracts rhodiola, inositol, berberine, gardenia, banaba, salacia, and apple.
None of the ingredients are proven to impact metabolism, and dietary supplements like this one are not FDA-regulated and can impact the efficacy of other medications.
What’s the bigger picture look like in current dieting trends?
Research has consistently shown that, in the long run, diets don’t work. Some may shed pounds initially, but the weight almost always creeps back up. Studies indicate up to 95% of people will regain the weight after the first 12 months.
In fact, dieting makes us more likely to gain weight in the long-term. It teaches us bad habits like restricting and bingeing, weight cycling, and disordered thoughts about eating. Despite the known harmful effects of dieting, there is still immense societal pressure to reshape our bodies and/or look a certain way.
So how can we be expected to reject the idea of dieting, while also wanting to fit into a certain size?
In response to this conundrum, the diet industry has changed their tune by placing the emphasis on health, wellness, and lifestyle changes. Outwardly, they are no longer putting weight loss on at the forefront. Counting calories has gone out the window and now “clean,” “healthy,” and “wellness” are in.
This marketing strategy has proved successful in the development of Noom and the rebranding of WW (from Weight Watchers), as well as many others.
While this new phrasing may sound more thoughtful, there’s still an underlying message that we should all eat less and weigh less. And unfortunately, the world around us continues to lean into positively reinforcing these outcomes.
GOLO is trying to work it out too!
On their homepage, GOLO blasts the diet industry for making “600 billion dollars” off of people like you and me and underscores the sentiment that we’ve been hearing more recently that “diets do not work.” The CEO is quoted as saying “the mission [of GOLO] is to expose the diet industry – and show you how to lose weight, get healthier, and never have to diet again.”
There’s hypocrisy in the CEO’s statement, but as noted above, the intention is to blend the anti-diet trend with the ongoing pressures to “look great.”
So what are some tangible options for making nutritional changes this year?
- Get a yearly physical and ask for a vitamin panel to assess for any deficiencies. Work with a trusted physician for safe repletion as needed.
- Read the fine print with a critical eye, and do research when it comes to diet plans and pills. Remember this is a business, and they want ours.
- Seek guidance from a Registered Dietitian for any Medical Nutrition Therapy needs.
- Work with a healthcare professional who is willing to work with you on nutrition needs without a side of judgement about your weight and/or physical appearance in general.
- Focus on other ways to maintain healthy lifestyle such as adequate sleep, stress management, and building or maintaining solid relationships with your support system of friends, family, and coworkers.
There is hypocrisy in saying diets don’t work, but try this one. For me, GOLO is sending a confusing message with promises of weight loss, which are not backed by substantial research. I vote save your money and take a pass.
❤️ As always, if you have any questions or comments, or if you have tried GOLO and want to share your experiences, please reach out. We love to hear from you!
The dietary supplement industry IS regulated by FDA as food, not drugs (because supplements are not drugs). Just because a statement is repeated over and over does not make it true. I am curious who is meant to fund studies of commercial products? If the work was performed under a grant agreement at a University and published in a peer-reviewed journal abstracted on PubMed, that is very good. Did not look these studies up, but you might next time you criticize any company for investing in proper and published independent research. That they have anything using a finished formula rather than cobbling together a pile of studies on ingredients is a plus. Again, these are not drugs. Another plus – no caffeine, no green tea catechins. While I don’t see anything to support weight loss other than investing in changing lifestyle, at least there are no red flag ingredients. Different people need different approaches to accomplish major lifestyle changes.
Curious about the suggested “vitamin panel” lab testing? What is that and does insurance cover? My doctor regularly checks vitamin D, folate and vitamin B12, probably because of my age. In most cases an “optimum” value for vitamins is not known as the foundational research focused on preventing deficiency with some case reports of toxicity used to set upper limits. At best the “panel” might uncover some deficiency?
Hi Anita, Thanks for your comments and questions. They are much appreciated, and all very relevant! I will try to cover all of this here in general, and then email you personally about each study in more detail.
1) The FDA has some regulatory agency over supplements (meaning they can do period reviews of the products as they see fit, and if something seems to be labeled incorrectly or a company makes a false health claim, they can work with said company to address it). But they do not have to approve products before they go to market. Meaning supplements can go out on the shelves without FDA approval and are unregulated.
The FDA website actually instructs consumers to think of supplements as seriously as drugs, and not to take anything OTC unless first reviewed by your physician, dietitian, nurse, or pharmacist. “Dietary Supplements 101′ on the FDA website goes into detail about what they have the power to regulate.
2) Out of the four studies posted which intend to prove that diet, exercise, and Release can produce weight loss, only 2 are in a scientific journal, and only one had a placebo arm. The authors (only two in total – each author wrote 2 papers) are funded, and therefore probably have bias to ensure the product works and they get paid. Though this may not seem like that big of a deal, it can have a serious impact on results. I emailed you separately more detail about each study – all of which had extremely small sample sizes.
4) And yes, checking vitamin and mineral status is helpful because if you are deficient or insufficient in something, it can be repleted appropriately with guidance from a physician. These checks could be done every few years, yearly, or in response to change in health, post-surgery, and frequency in general will depend on age, medical history, physician judgement and your personal goals.
Hope this is helpful, and again, thanks for your readership!
Great article Emily! I have been curious after seeing ad after ad for GOLO and now I know….thanks.