America has had an obesity problem for the last 40-50 years, and it doesn’t seem to be changing for the better. In September 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report that noted the number of states with high rates of obesity had doubled just since 2018. Even as the numbers of adults and children with obesity continue to rise, there has been a similar explosion in the number of diets that claim to help people lose weight. One of these new fad diets that has emerged in recent years is called the GOLO diet plan. But does it actually work for weight loss?
The name of the diet comes from the first four letters of each part of the tagline found on the GOLO website, “Go lose weight, Go look great, Go love life.” Also according to the company’s website, the diet began in 2009 and was developed by a team of doctors, pharmacists, and researchers. Like most other fad diets, GOLO claims to be different and laments the fact that many people regain weight quickly even if they’ve managed to lose some. Unlike a lot of other diets, though, the promises of weight loss are all built around a supplement pill called Release.
A core tenet of the GOLO weight loss program is that the difficulty in losing weight and the tendency to gain it back is all due to insulin resistance. The diet seeks to counter this through a focus on eating primarily whole, unprocessed, and unrefined foods. In three meals a day, you can eat one or two servings each of protein, carbs, veggies, and fats. The specifics of the diet plan are unfortunately only available to dieters who first purchase a container of the Release supplement for $59.95.
Release is the heart of the GOLO plan, and it is the part of the diet that is claimed to be the difference maker compared to other diets. It allegedly improves metabolic efficiency and the body’s ability to regulate insulin. Release is made up of a long list of plant-based ingredients and minerals, including banaba leaf extract, rhodiola rosea, myo-inositol, salacia reticulata extract, berberine, apple polyphenol fruit extract, gardenia jasminoides fruit extract, chromium nicotinate glycinate, and magnesium.
In essence, the GOLO diet involves a diet program of 1300-1800 calories a day depending on an individual’s particular needs. The Release dietary supplement is then supposed to support the meal plan by providing minerals and plant extracts that counter the effects of insulin resistance; the supplement is additionally supposed to improve aspects of overall health by relieving oxidative stress, reducing inflammatory responses, and encouraging proper cellular function. This is all meant to happen over a period of three to six months.
Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar in the body and is a crucial part of how the body gets energy from food. Every time we eat, food travels through the digestive system and is eventually broken down into glucose and other small components that can be used by cells. The presence of glucose in the bloodstream signals the release of insulin, and this allows cells to absorb the glucose or to store it as fat for later use. After glucose is absorbed and blood sugar levels drop, insulin levels also drop.
This process repeats over and over again, and the amount of insulin in the blood is directly related to the amount of glucose detected. If a lot of glucose shows up in the blood—say after eating a large meal with lots of refined carbohydrates—the pancreas will increase the amount of insulin released to compensate. The problems start to emerge if this becomes a regular pattern; as more and more insulin enters the bloodstream to deal with high blood sugar, over time the body’s cells stop responding to the insulin.
This state of being, where cells no longer respond to insulin, is called insulin resistance. Sustained high blood sugar causes damage to the body and can eventually lead to kidney disease, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Also, since the other role of insulin is to signal the liver to store excess glucose as fat, another consequence of insulin resistance is increased fat deposits that lead to overweight and obesity.
While somewhat vague and nonspecific, the eating plan component of the GOLO diet seems to fit with the consensus among health care professionals about habits for healthy eating; however, it isn’t really a novel approach to weight loss and it basically relies on the well-known principle of being in a caloric deficit. Any diet plan that tracks calories and calls for moderation of refined carbohydrate intake can eventually lead to weight loss, so in this respect the GOLO diet is somewhat legitimate.
The more questionable part is GOLO Release, which as a supplement is not subject to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. Although the GOLO website claims that “preliminary” studies have been done on the efficacy of Release, they were paid for by the GOLO company and didn’t include placebo groups as standard peer-reviewed research norms dictate. The fact remains that there is no substantial evidence that any of the ingredients in Release have the kind of effect on insulin and metabolism that GOLO claims.
The bottom line: while a focus on a healthy diet and a nod toward the dangers of insulin resistance have merit, the GOLO diet is not likely to be any more effective at helping a person lose weight than other diet. Modifying one’s diet to include more whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins is beneficial for anyone—not even just those who are trying to lose weight. But at nearly $60 a bottle, the Release supplement is most likely a waste of money on minerals and plant extracts that have not been shown to have a direct impact on preventing weight gain or realizing weight loss.
It’s possible that the GOLO diet—or any of the countless fad diets littering the internet today—could lead to weight loss, but it isn’t because of anything special about how it works. The only unambiguous way to lose weight is to create a calorie deficit by consuming fewer calories than are expended through the body’s normal functions and any additional physical activity. Many of these diets work for some people, but they rely on unsustainable gimmicks (like taking an expensive supplement) that don’t lead to long-term changes. Over time, the weight goes back on and the dieter is left feeling frustrated.
At True You Weight Loss, we’ve seen this pattern many times before, and that’s why we are dedicated to providing alternative solutions that are designed to last. With a non-surgical endobariatric procedure like ESG, for instance, the stomach is reformed to be permanently smaller; this limits the ability to overeat and promotes long-term changes in eating habits that lead to sustainable weight loss. If you’d like to learn more about what we offer and how it can free you from the endless cycle of yo-yo dieting, please contact us today to request a consultation.