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December 20, 1987|ROSE DOSTI

Whether you're buying gifts for a culinary novice or an expert, an ideal present is as close as the nearest bookstore. The Times' Food staff looked at a sampling of the cookbooks released in time for this holiday season and offers the following reviews to assist last-minute shoppers. Some of these books get down to the basics, some deal with ethnic cuisines while still others are as much a feast for the eyes as for the appetite. These--or the host of other cookbooks you'll find on sale at local stores--will not only delight the recipient but might ensure the giver some memorable repasts during 1988.

Popular Diets: How They Rate by the California Dietetic Assn. (California Dietetic Assn., Los Angeles District: $5.95, 94 pp.)

You've thumbed through "Dr. Berger's Immune Power Diet" book and you want to know if it's OK to try the diet. How do you find out? The Publications Advisory Committee of the California Dietetic Assn., a nonprofit organization made up of nutrition professionals, rated Berger's and 13 other recent diet books and two weight-loss programs in the second edition of a booklet available to the public.

Only one out of the 15 diets reviewed received a "Recommended" rating from the association; four of them were "conditionally recommended," meaning that some aspect of the diet required adjustment. The remainder of the diets were not recommended.

"The Setpoint Diet" by Gilbert A. Leveille Ph.D. was the only diet of the group of 15 recommended.

The rationale for recommendation: Leveille is a professional from an accredited university; the diet meets two-thirds of the RDA for analyzed nutrients; the author stresses the importance of not following a diet lower than 1,200 calories; the diet is designed to provide a gradual weight loss of one to three pounds per week; gimmickry is not advocated; special or expensive foods are not required; the dieter is allowed to select foods according to individual preference; the diet stresses variety in selecting foods; exercise is a very important part of the weight loss program; the importance of using behavior modification techniques is discussed; weight maintenance based on continued exercise and increased calorie levels are incorporated into the plan, and the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans are incorporated into the diet.

The only criticism of the book is that the "effectiveness" of the diet in sustaining weight loss is not well documented. "Although both animal and human studies suggest the set-point theory, more research is needed, particularly regarding the contribution of exercise in lowering set-point," according to the rating committee. Also, the diet provides slightly less than the recommended 50% carbohydrate calories and is low by one-half serving from the Bread/Cereal Group, according to the committee rating the diet.

Among the conditionally recommended diets: "Beyond Diet: The 28-Day Metabolic Breakthrough Plan" and "The 200-Calorie Solution," both by Martin Katahn Ph.D.; "The Fit-Or Fat Target Diet" by Covert Bailey MS; and "Weight Watchers: The Quick Start Plus Program" by Weight Watchers International Inc.

A criticism of Katahn's "Beyond Diet," which rendered it "conditionally recommended," was that "nutrition experts would question the scientific rationale of some of the statements in the book," and that additional servings from the bread/cereal group need to be added. The committee also stated that more discussion of techniques to modify eating behavior should be included in Katahn's book.

The diets that were not recommended include: Audrey Eyton's "Extraordinary F-Plan Diet"; "The Carbohydrate Craver's Diet"; "Diet Center Weight Loss Program"; "Eat To Win"; "The Sports Nutrition Bible"; "Fit for Life"; "The Hilton Head Metabolism Diet"; "Dr. Berger's Immune Power Diet"; "The James Coco Diet"; "The Nutri/System Weight Loss Program" and "The Rotation Diet."

The criticisms of these diets varied from the authors' lack of training to factual errors, poor adherence to the four basic food groups, flaws in the unbalanced nature of the diet and lack of either exercise or behavior modification as components of the diet, among others.

All the diets rated received a specified total number of points according to 13 criteria on a rating scale by members of the association's advisory committee.

The diets had been computer-analyzed for 10 nutrients plus calories. The four basic food groups evaluation also figured in the analysis.

The book ends on a happy note, however, giving tips for designing your diet based on guidelines outlined in the book.

For a copy of the book write to California Dietetic Assn., Los Angeles District, P.O. Box 3506, Santa Monica 90403, and enclose check or money order for $5.95 plus 36 cents for California residents or 39 cents for Los Angeles county residents. Allow four to six weeks for delivery.

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