What is the GOLO diet? Why experts question its weight-loss claims

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golo diet

The GOLO diet was one of the most popular diet of 2019 according to US News & World Report.

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  • The GOLO diet is a weight loss program that combines a calorie-restrictive meal plan with a dietary supplement called Release. 
  • Experts question whether the dietary supplement, Release, in the GOLO diet actually helps with weight loss.
  • This article was reviewed by Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, nutrition and wellness expert with a private practice based in New York City.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The GOLO diet is a weight loss program marketed by the company GOLO For Life. 

The official website says that the GOLO diet is different from other fad diets because it focuses on “increasing metabolic efficiency” and rebalancing hormones, rather than just counting calories. 

There’s limited research on the diet’s effectiveness for weight loss, and some of the few studies that have been done were funded by GOLO For Life. Here’s what you should know about GOLO and it’s diet program.

How the GOLO diet started

GOLO was founded in 2009 by a group of doctors, researchers, and marketing strategists. The name is short for the company motto: “Go lose weight. Go look great. Go love life.” 

The diet started to catch on in 2016 and 2017, according to Google Trends, and at the close of 2019, it seemed to peak interest, yet again ending up on the US News & World Report’s most popular diet of 2019. 

What is the GOLO diet

Marketers of the GOLO diet claim that, with proper nutrition and a supplement called Release, it can restore your insulin sensitivity and metabolic health.  

What exactly GOLO considers “proper nutrition” is unclear. The website emphasizes “foods that contain the nutrients you need and fuel your metabolism.” 

In order to access the full GOLO’s dieting guide, you have to pay $50 to $100 for a bottle of the company’s controversial Release supplement, which is developed by GOLO’s in-house researchers and pharmacists and, like most dietary supplements, not FDA approved for weight loss.

You can get some idea of what types of food the GOLO diet promotes by checking the meals pictured on the site. They’re made up of proteins, vegetables, and unprocessed carbohydrates. The company also emphasizes calorie restriction, based on the 1300 to 1500 calorie diet they model on their website.

Scientific research on the GOLO diet

The tenants of the GOLO diet, eating mostly unprocessed foods, are backed by evidence to help people lose weight. Moreover, multiple forms of calorie-restriction have repeatedly shown to help people lose weight and improve insulin sensitivity — how effectively your body responds to insulin, a hormone critical in metabolism.

However, the scientific evidence behind the GOLO diet’s eating plan, specifically, is limited. The website links to four studies: two were not peer-reviewed and the remaining two studies were published but funded by GOLO For Life. 

Also, the 2019 study that suggests investing in the diet’s Release supplement can lead to greater weight loss is questionable, says Jose Aleman, an endocrinologist at NYU who studies obesity told Insider.

Specifically, Aleman takes issue with how the study was conducted to achieve this result. 

The study, which was funded by GOLO For Life, included 68 patients all of whom were on the GOLO diet eating plan. Half took the Release supplement while the other half took a placebo. The results show that those on Release lost more weight, but on closer look, the average starting weights for the two groups were very different: 213 pounds in the placebo group vs. 240 pounds in the Release group. 

Heavier patients lose weight faster, Aleman says. Not to mention, improvements in insulin resistance are most dramatic with the loss of the first 10 pounds which happened in the heaviest group first, as we’d expect. Because the groups were so different at baseline, their weight loss difference is not likely to be the result of the supplement, Alemen says. 

The bottom line is that the GOLO diet’s attention to eating unprocessed foods and restricting calories will likely help you to lose weight. However, investing in their Release supplement may not be the best use of your money.

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