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The Hamptons diet is a low-carbohydrate, low-calorie diet that could be described as a cross between the Atkins diet and the Mediterranean diet. The originator of the Hamptons diet, Dr. Fred Pescatore, is the former associate medical director of the Atkins Center. He has himself described the Hamptons diet as “low-carb with a Mediterranean twist.” The diet focuses on eating healthy monosaturated fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish and vegetables.
The Hamptons diet is a relatively recent addition to the list of popular diets. Its basic guide, The Hamptons Diet: Lose Weight Quickly and Safely with the Doctor’s Delicious Meal Plans, was published in 2004, and the official cookbook of the diet appeared in print in 2006.
According to Fred Pescatore, the author of The Hamptons Diet, his interest in nutrition originated in his painful experiences as an overweight teenager “frustrated by his inability to get a date,” as he told one Australian reporter. He went on a crash diet for 40 days during his sophomore year of college and resolved to “never allow myself to get that way again.” After college, Pescatore went to medical school at the American University of the Caribbean.
Pescatore then returned to New York City, where he completed a residency in internal medicine and a master’s degree in public health. Still concerned about his weight, he tried the Atkins diet and reportedly lost an additional 20 pounds. In 1994, a recruiter for the Atkins Center in Manhattan hired Pescatore, who had started a nutrition-based practice in East Hampton, to be the associate medical director of the center. Pescatore remained at the center until 1999, after the publication of his first diet book—on the importance of preventing obesity in children. A second low-carbohydrate diet book, Thin for Good, followed in 2000. This book was disting\uished by a comparatively extenstive treatment of the psychological issues involved in weight loss. It also contained a series of diet plans designed for men and women in different life stages.
After the Atkins Center closed in October 2003, Pescatore and four other former Atkins employees—an internest, an osteopath specializing in spinal manipulative treatment, a psychotherapist, and a physician’s assistant—formed a practice called the Partners in Integrative Medicine (PIM). Pescatore describes PIM as creating five “amazing partnerships . . . at the center of low-carb medicine”—partnerships between traditional and alternative medicine, between the patient and PIM, between body, mind and spirit, between the staffat PIM, and between PIM and other professionals.
Pescatore’s variation on the Atkins theme, which he says took him five years to develop, was to separate good dietary fats from bad fats, a step that Atkins had not taken. More specifically, Pescatore departed from the high levels of saturated fats recommended in the Atkins diet. He based the Hamptons diet on the use of more healthful food oils—monounsaturated fats, which are fats or fatty acids with only one double-bonded carbon atom in their molecules. Monounsaturated fats soften and liquefy at lower temperatures than saturated fats, and are thought to offer some protection against heart disease. They are found naturally in such foods as nuts and avocados. When Pescatore was asked in 2004 whether the changes he introduced in his diet plan means that Atkins was wrong, he said that Atkins “was starting to come around towards the end.... Dr. Atkins wasn’t wrong at all. It’s just times change and things evolve. And as the science evolves, so should the low-carb dieting world evolve, because it is not just a fad.”.
Although there are a number of plant-based oils used in cooking that contain monounsaturated fats— olive oil, peanut oil, flaxseed oil, and sesame oil—the Hamptons diet claims to be based on a “secret ingre-dient”macadamia nut oil from Australia. Macadamia nuts are produced by an evergreen tree, Macadamia integrifolia,which is native to the rain forests of Queensland and New South Wales in Australia.
The Hamptons diet uses macadamia nut oil not only for cooking, but also in salad dressings and marinades. Pescatore claims that macadamia nut oil is “the most monounsaturated oil on the planet.” Macadamia nut oil contains 84% monounsaturated fats, 3.5% polyunsaturated fats, 12.5% saturated fats, and no cholesterol. Pescatore presently sells MacNut Oil, a form of macadamia oil on his website; it can also be ordered directly from a distributor in Plano, Texas.
In addition to the “secret ingredient,” the Hamptons diet is distinctive for the use of food lists defined by how much weight the dieter needs to lose. Calories and portion sizes are not emphasized; the dieter is expected to divide the recipes into portions according to the number of servings indicated by each recipe. The basic menu plans, however, provide between 1000 and 1200 calories per day. There are three food groups, labeled A, B, and C:
- A group: Foods on this list are for people who need to lose more than 10 pounds. These dieters are limited to between 23 and 26 grams of carbohydrates per day.
- B group: For dieters with less than 10 pounds to lose. They may select foods from both the A and B lists, which allow 40 to 43 grams of carbohydrates per day.
- C group: Foods on this list are slowly added to the meal plans as the dieter reaches his or her weight loss goal and begins a maintenance diet. Foods in this group provide up to 65 grams of carbohydrates per day.
The Hamptons diet is essentially a low-carbohydrate diet intended to promote a moderate rate of weight loss in otherwise healthy people. It is not intended to treat any chronic medical conditions or disorders.
The Hamptons diet promotes a gradual weight loss and encourages eating a balanced range of foods. It allows dieters complex carbohydrates (including whole-grain breads and fresh fruit); discourages the use of processed foods and distinguishes between healthy and unhealthy sources of fat in the diet. Its preference for such lean sources of protein as chicken and fish rather than the higher saturated fat items such as bacon and steaks is also in its favor. In addition, some people like the fact that the Hamptons diet allows moderate amounts of alcohol and the kinds of flavorful foods featured in the Mediterranean diet. The gourmet-quality recipes in this diet may also be useful to dieters who want to cook for a family or for guests without having to prepare two separate meals.
Although the Hamptons diet is not a very low-calorie diet (VLCD), it is always advisable for people who need to lose 30 pounds or more; are pregnant or nursing; are below the age of 18; or have such chronic disorders as diabetes, kidney disease, or liver disease to check with a physician before starting a weight-reduction diet.
The Hamptons diet has been criticized by nutritionists for its inadequate allowances of fiber, vitamin C, calcium, folate, vitamin D, and vitamin E. The diet is also high in fat, which provides as much as 70% of the calories in some menu plans, particularly those that call for cream cheese, bacon, and heavy whipping cream. The Hamptons diet does not focus on high sat fat items. Therefore, the cream cheese, bacon, and heavy whipping cream is generally only recommened.
in moderation. Very few dietitians have a problem with this.
A frequent criticism of the Hamptons diet from those who have tried it is that the recipe ingredients are often costly and hard to find. Many of the ingredients called for in the recipes would be unfamiliar to anyone except a professional chef, and some are quite costly. For example, the macadamia nut oil recommended by Dr. Pescatore costs about $10 (as of early 2007) for a bottle containing 8.5 ounces (slightly more than a cup), or $18 for a bottle containing 16.9 ounces (slightly more than a pint). In addition, the diet recommends organic, not just fresh, ingredients, which are almost always more expensive than nonorganic produce or meats. It is perhaps not surprising that the Hamptons diet has spawned a Hamptons Diet Market website, where the dieter may purchase the “uniquely healthy products from the Hamptons world of wellness” online.
Another potential drawback of the Hamptons diet for many people is that many of the recipes require advance preparation, as much as a day ahead of eating the dish. Others are time-consuming to cook or assemble apart from the time required for advance preparation.
The relatively high fat content of some of the recipes formulated for the Hamptons diet may be worrisome for dieters; however, only saturated and trans-fat pose risks for heart health. Monosaturated and polyunsaturated fats, including omega-3 fatty acids, actually promote heart health.
The Hamptons diet have been featured primarily in celebrity, fashion, and homemaking magazines rather than in clinical studies. As of 2007, there have been no clinical trials of the Hamptons diet reported in mainstream research journals. Pescatore is involved in two groups listed on his website, presumably to establish his credentials as a researcher. He is the president of the AHCC Research Association. As of 2007 he is also the current president of the International and American Association of Clinical Nutritionists (IAACN).
Like the Scarsdale diet, the Hampton diet makes snob appeal an important part of its publicity material. A brief article about the Hamptons diet that appeared in In Touch magazine in July 2004 has prominent photographs of the celebrities, who are said to be current clients of Dr. Pescatore. The article trades on the reputation of the Hamptons as a summer playground for the wealthy. The official website of the Hamptons diet has the following description under the heading of “Hamptons How-To: Embrace the Hamptons Lifestyle: Rich, Indulgent, and Thin”: “The Hamptons are a forty-mile stretch of land on the southern shore of Long Island in New York State. First settled in the mid-1600s, the area boasts 300-year-old trees, hundreds of acres of farmland, gorgeous dunes, sea cliffs, and stunning beaches. The Hamptons didn’t really ‘arrive’ until the late 1800s, when the railroad was built from New York City. From that era up to the present, the eastern end of Long Island has been synonymous with the good life: sun, fun, glamour, and lots of money. The Hamptons Diet was formulated with the belief that millions of people want to be thin, rich, and famous—like many of [Dr. Pescatore’s] clientele.”.
Pescatore, Fred, MD. The Allergy and Asthma Cure: A Complete 8-Step Nutritional Program. New York: J. Wiley, 2003.
Pescatore, Fred, MD. Feed Your Kids Well: How to Help Your Child Lose Weight and Get Healthy. New York: J. Wiley, 1998.
Pescatore, Fred, MD. The Hamptons Diet: Lose Weight Quickly and Safely with the Doctor’s Delicious Meal Plans. Hoboken, NJ: J. Wiley, 2004.
Pescatore, Fred, MD. Thin for Good: The One Low-Carb Diet That Will Finally Work for You. New York: J. Wiley, 2000.
Pescatore, Fred, MD, and Jeff Harter. The Hamptons Diet Cookbook: Enjoy the Hamptons Lifestyle Wherever You Live. Hoboken, NJ: J. Wiley, 2006.
Scales, Mary Josephine. Diets in a Nutshell: A Definitive Guide on Diets from A to Z. Clifton, VA: Apex Publishers, 2005.
Cohen, Deborah. “Latest Spin on Atkins Calls for ‘Oil Change.’” Forbes, March 18, 2004. Available online at http://www.forbes.com/business/newswire/2004/03/18/rtr1303500.html> (accessed March 12, 2007).
Fishman, Steve. “The Diet Martyr.” New York Magazine, March 15, 2004. Available online at http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/people/features/n_10035/index.html> (accessed March 12, 2007). Basically a profile of Dr. Robert Atkins, but contains some information about Fred Pescatore’s position in Atkins’s clinic.
Larson, Hilary J. “Atkins Protege Pitches ‘The Hamptons Diet’: Macadamia Nut Oil Is the Magic Ingredient.” South Hampton Press, nd. Available online at http://www.hamptonsdiet.com/hamptons-media.aspndash>(accessed March 13, 2007).
“A Truly Tasteful Way to Losing Weight.” Today, May 21, 2004. Available online at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5023897/. Contains some sample recipes from the Hamptons diet.
Sandon, Lona, MEd, RD. Review of The Hamptons Diet for the American Dietetic Association, August 2004. Available online in PDF format at http://www.eatright.org/ada/files/Hamptons_Diet.pdf(accessedMarch12,2007).
AHCC Research Association. [No mailing address]. Telephone: (203) 659-6629. Website: http://www.ahccresearch.com.
American Dietetic Association (ADA). 120 South Riverside Plaza, Suite 2000, Chicago, IL 60606-6995. Telephone: (800): 877-1600. Website: http://www.eatright.org.
Dietitians of Canada/Les dietetistes du Canada (DC). 480 University Avenue, Suite 604, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5G 1V2. Telephone: (416) 596-0857. Website: http://www.dietitians.ca>
Hamptons Diet website. URL: http://www.hamptonsdiet.com/index.asp>. No other contact information given.
Hamptons Diet Market. Telephone: (877) 944-7325. Website: http://www.hamptonsdietmarket.com/>.
International and American Association of Clinical Nutritionists (IAACN). 15280 Addison Road, Suite 130, Addison, TX 75001. Telephone: (972) 407-9089. Website: http://www.iaacn.org/index.htm>.
MacNut Oil. P.O. Box 864066, Plano, TX 75086-4066. Telephone: (866) 4-MACNUT or (972) 516-1740. Website: http://www.macnutoil.com>.
Partners in Integrative Medicine (PIM). 369 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10017. Telephone: (212) 779-2944. Website: http://www.piimdocs.com/>
Rebecca J. Frey, Ph.D.