There are dozens of weight loss diets to choose from, with new plans sprouting up every year. Many quickly fade away, but a program called GOLO has shown some staying power. One of the top diets searched online in 2016, GOLO continues to generate buzz. Here's what this plan is about, what the research says, and if you should try it.
What is GOLO?
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Rather than limiting carbs or fat, the GOLO plan (developed by a team of doctors and pharmacists, according to the company) focuses on balancing hormones. The GOLO philosophy is that hormone imbalances are triggers of stress and anxiety, which leads to fatigue, hunger, and poor sleep quality. All of this in turn drives overeating, bingeing, and emotional eating.
GOLO’s creators believe that diet and exercise alone aren’t enough to generate lasting weight loss, however. To supplement these healthy habits, they created a patented capsule they call Release, which is an integral part of the program.
The supplement GOLO dieters take
According to the GOLO website, Release “contains important plant extracts and key minerals clinically proven to help manage the physical and psychological aspects of weight.” The company claims that Release optimizes blood sugar and insulin regulation, balances hormones, extends hunger, and controls cravings.
The supplement is taken with meals for the entirety of the program, although GOLO recommends reducing the dose if you only have 10-20 pounds to lose, or if you're losing more than four pounds per week. They also advise phasing out the supplement once your reach your goal weight.
According to studies done by the company, study participants on the GOLO plan lost on average a total of 37.4 pounds (16.1% of body weight) and 6.4 inches around their waists. They also dropped more than three dress sizes and five pants sizes.
GOLO further says that a randomized, double-blind on overweight subjects in 2018 showed that those who took Release lost significantly more weight and waist inches than those who took a placebo. All of the studies, however, were funded and conducted by GOLO, and the research isn’t found in the peer reviewed National Library of Medicine database. That’s a red flag.
In addition, the amounts of the various ingredients in Release are not known, because the formulation is patented. But according to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, some of the ingredients may trigger nausea or digestive upset. Red flag number two.
What reviewers say about GOLO
In existence since 2008, the GOLO plan is available for purchase on amazon.com and GOLO's own site. The program currently has 62 reviews on Amazon, with an average rating of three stars. For $49.95, buyers receive a 30-day supply of Release, a metabolic (eating) plan, and other booklets, including one on goal setting and emotional eating, as well as a GOLO diet membership.
While the details of the diet plan aren’t specifically stated in the marketing materials, GOLO claims that users can eat more food and still lose weight, and they can eat foods they love. Some Amazon reviewers say the diet consists of typical healthy foods, including produce, lean protein, healthy fats, and unprocessed carbs, in smaller portions, along with encouragement to exercise.
One reviewer noted that the program suggests cooking a week’s worth of food ahead of time, which may be unrealistic for some. A handful of customers praise the simple meal plans, but one noted that the lack of an app for tracking presented a challenge.
Several stated that they did not lose weight. But to be fair, it’s not clear how many of these folks were carefully following the plan, or if they utilized the GOLO membership, which includes access to online coaches.
Should you try GOLO?
Bottom line: There is a lot of unknown info. The GOLO plan is difficult to evaluate without third-party, peer-reviewed research on both the diet itself and the Release supplement. Also, you have to purchase the plan to know the exact parameters of the diet. What’s allowed and not allowed, as well as the nutritional composition of suggested meal plans, are not clear because this information not found on the company’s website.
Without independent data on Release, it’s difficult to say if it indeed leads to better results, and if it’s safe for all. But here’s what we do know: Many people have successfully lost weight and kept it off by simply consuming more whole food-based, balanced meals, eating mindfully, garnering support, and being active. These healthy habits don’t require pills, booklets, or memberships.
Before deciding if GOLO is right for you, check out the Amazon reviews for yourself, and talk to your doctor about the appropriateness of the ingredients in Release based on your current health and medications. And and consider other options backed by published studies, such as the DASH diet and the MIND diet.
Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health's contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a consultant for the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets.
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