Do Jet Lag Diets Work?

Donald Saunders

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Anti jet lag diets have been around for some time now, but do they work?

Perhaps the best know anti jet lag diet is the Argonne Diet, developed at the Argonne National Laboratory in 1982. Over the years thousands of people have downloaded copies of this diet online and it is reputed to have been used by an impressive list of people including the late President Ronald Regan, the US Secret Service, the CIA and the US Army and Navy. In addition, it is purported to have been used by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Canadian swim team.

However, when you realize that the only evidence to support the effectiveness of this diet is a study conducted by the US military, this list of ‘supporters’ doesn't perhaps seem quite so impressive.

On the surface the US military study does appear to support the effectiveness of the diet, although the report (published in 2002) pointed out a number of problems with the study and stated that “larger and better controlled studies need to be used to verify the usefulness of the Argonne diet".

Perhaps the biggest problem with this study however lies in the reasoning behind the study and in the group of people used for the study.

The US military deploy hundreds of thousands of troops around the world every year and jet lag has a significant effect upon their operations. Preventing jet lag is thus something of a priority issue. However, curing jet lag on this scale can also be a very expensive business and so looking for a simple, inexpensive, convenient and readily available solution, with few if any side-effects was essential. It is not perhaps surprising therefore that they focused their attention of the possibility of using a diet as nothing could be simpler, or cheaper, to implement. It also represented a natural solution, without any of the emotional or medical problems so often associated with the usual pills or injections.

Perhaps more significant though was the group chosen for the study. Volunteers were taken from 186 National Guard personnel being deployed to Korea. Of these, 95 used the diet on the outbound leg of the journey and 39 used the diet coming home.

Two questions seem to arise here.

The first question is whether or not results seen in a group of National Guard personnel could reasonably be expected to appear in the general traveling population. I think most people would agree that this can hardly be said to be a representative sample.

The second question is why only 39 people volunteered to try the diet on the return home when 95 people had used the diet on the outbound journey. Surely, if those using it for the deployment had found it effective then you would expect more than 41 percent of them to have wanted to use it again coming home.

These questions are of course important but perhaps the real question that we should be asking is why a diet should be effective at all as a jet lag cure.

Jet lag results from the inability of your body to adjust its own internal clock fast enough to bring it into line with local time when traveling. For example, when you arrive at your destination and the clock says it nine o’clock in the morning and time to start the day’s work, your internal body clock may still be reading two o’clock in the morning (the time back home) and telling you that you should be in bed.

So just how is a diet supposed to help solve this little problem?

Well, the simple answer of course is that it can’t. Yes, what you eat and drink can play a part in helping your body to overcome the effects of jet lag and can assist in reducing jet lag symptoms. Diet, however, is only one small element in the equation for solving the problems of jet lag and simply making some adjustment to what you eat and drink before, during and after your journey, along with other preventative measures, is all that is required.

Curing jet lag through the use of so-called anti jet lag diets is a nice idea, but, unfortunately, it's myth rather than reality.

Copyright 2005 Donald Saunders -

Donald Saunders is the author of a number of health related publications including “Jet Lag – A Natural Approach". Learn more about jet lag and pick up your free copy of “How To Get A Good Night’s Sleep" to discover the secret to curing insomnia .


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