You see a group of friends sitting in restaurant ordering food, but there is always this one person that will order a salad and say things like, “Oh, you know, I have following this new diet where I only eat salad whole day” or will say, “ I want to lose some of my weight so I am avoiding any carbs”. We hear these sentences a lot of times. People tend to try these kinds of diets with the biggest motive to lose weight immediately.
In terms of nutrition, diet is the sum of energy and nutrients consumed by a person. In simpler terms the food that you eat and drink on a day to day basis. These days we are used to quick results. Anything from groceries to electronics, can be bought within a click. Now we have started to channel that into how our body responds to external stimuli such as food and exercise. We expect results within a short span of time and we will go to a greater extent to ensure that happens.
That’s where fad diets come into the frame. Fad diets are sold as the best and fastest approach to losing weight. Some of these diets involve eliminating foods that contain the necessary nutrients that your body needs to maintain good health. Many times these diets are not researched or the research can be faulty. For example, some diets claim a particular hormone to be responsible for weight gain and then suggest that a certain food can change the body chemistry. So they can ask you to eliminate a certain important source of nutrition. Some diets even have to eliminate a particular food at a specific time of the day. While other diets only allow you to eat certain foods as long as you eat them along with certain other foods.
This kind of diet is usually endorsed by celebrities and promoted through media which may generate significant profit for the creators of diets through the sale of associated products. In spite of that and lack of evidence the fad diets are extremely popular to lose weight. These fad diets may offer some engaging ways to reduce calories intake, but at the worst they may be medically unsuitable to the individual or even dangerous thus a dietitian’s/ nutritionists’ advice should be preferred before attending any diet.
All fad diets have one thing in common that it proposes a temporary solution for many people but is a lifelong problem. Once the diet is stopped, the lost weight is usually regained quickly. They don’t focus on Lifestyle modification, which is necessary to keep the weight off, and these diets are not sustainable throughout life.
Health experts may be reluctant to embrace fad diets, yet some of them carry scientific evidence and therapeutic applications, such as the ketogenic diet and caloric restriction for epilepsy, as well as the Mediterranean diet and weight loss for obesity and diabetes. In some cases, under professional supervision, these diets are as effective as commercial diets or standard care.
Following are some fad diets with their pros and cons:
- Ketogenic diet:
The ketogenic diet is a very low carb, high fat diet that shares many similarities with the Atkins and low carb diets. It involves drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat. This reduction in carbs puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis. Signs of ketosis can be identified by increased ketone bodies in the blood, headaches and fatigue due to extremely low carbohydrate intake and bad breath. When this happens, your body becomes incredibly efficient at burning fat for energy. It also turns fat into ketones in the liver, which can supply energy for the brain.
- Paleo Diet:
The paleo diet, short for the Paleolithic diet, is based on the diets that hunter-gatherers ate thousands of years ago. This diet primarily revolves around what our ancestors had access to – Whole foods. On this diet, the idea is to avoid anything that could be made in a factory. What this diet would consist of would be meat, free range eggs, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. However, Paleo has been classified as a fad diet because it restricts many foods, including dairy, legumes and grains. In order to adapt it to the current scenario, consuming spices/condiments and olive/coconut oil are acceptable.
- Atkins Diet:
Cardiologist Robert Atkins in the early 1970s created the Atkins diet that claims to produce rapid weight loss without hunger. It is the most famous low-carb weight loss diet in the world. The Atkins Diet has several phases for weight loss and maintenance, starting out with a very low carbohydrate eating plan.
- The zone diet:
It has been classified as a fad diet due to its premise that a strict ratio of protein (30% lean protein), fat (30% healthy fat) and carbs (40% high fiber carbs) is required for optimal weight loss and overall health. One of the ways the Zone diet is proposed to work is by reducing inflammation, which allows you to lose weight more easily. In addition, these foods are to be consumed as a prescribed number of “blocks” at meals and snacks.
- The Dukan Diet:
In the 1970s French doctor Pierre Dukan Developed this diet. It consists of four stages. It starts with the Attack Phase, which consists almost entirely of unlimited lean-protein foods. The reason behind this very high protein intake is that it will lead to rapid weight loss as a result of boosting metabolism and significantly decreasing appetite. In the stabilization stage, no foods are strictly off-limits, but high-protein foods and vegetables are encouraged. The final phase also requires that you eat only Attack Phase foods once a week. These extreme stages make this diet a fad diet.
- GM Diet:
This diet was initially created for employees of General Motors (GM). It allows you to eat a certain combination of foods each day. On first day, one can eat only fruits except bananas. On day two, only vegetables. For a week, specific foods are consumed in this pattern. The diet consists of low-calorie fruits, vegetables, and other items that have been shown to induce weight loss because they are low-calorie. In spite of this diet’s popularity, there isn’t any research to support its claims.
To achieve weight loss and maintaining it, it is important to find a healthy lifestyle than just merely cutting down some foods. Although, some of these diets will actually work for some, but that doesn’t mean it is sustainable for whole life. It is inevitable that fad diets will continue to be popular, and that new plans will be developed to meet people’s desire to lose weight quickly. So, one should always make a wise decision when it comes to fitness. Even though shortcuts might seem tempting, remember that health is wealth.
- Khawandanah, J., & Tewfik, I. (2016). Fad diets: lifestyle promises and health challenges. Journal of Food Research, 5(6), 80-94.
- Kuchkuntla, A. R., Limketkai, B., Nanda, S., Hurt, R. T., & Mundi, M. S. (2018). Fad diets: hype or hope?. Current nutrition reports, 7(4), 310-323.
- Paoli, A. (2014). Ketogenic diet for obesity: friend or foe?. International journal of environmental research and public health, 11(2), 2092-2107.
- Pitt, C. E. (2016). Cutting through the Paleo hype: The evidence for the Palaeolithic diet. Australian Family Physician, 45(1/2), 35-38.
- Chen, T. Y., Smith, W., Rosenstock, J. L., & Lessnau, K. D. (2006). A life-threatening complication of Atkins diet. The Lancet, 367(9514), 958.
- Sears, B. (2017). The zone diet.
- Yen, L., Edington, M. P., McDonald, T., Hirschland, D., & Edington, D. W. (2001). Changes in health risks among the participants in the united auto workers—General Motors Life Steps Health Promotion Program. American Journal of Health Promotion, 16(1), 7-15.