A fad diet is a diet that is popular for a period of time without being a standard dietary recommendation. Fad diets may promise unreasonably fast weight loss and nonsensical health improvements. Usually the diet consists of highly restrictive or unusual food choices, which can lead to serious health problems down the line. Typically these diets are extremely unhealthy and are not sustainable.
Since fad diets may promote rapid weight-loss, it can slow down your metabolism causing future weight gain, or difficulty maintaining weight loss. Some risks of these diets are deficiencies of essential nutrients, a weakened immune system, dehydration, heart palpitations and cardiac stress.
Below are 3 examples of fad diets that are common today:
The Atkins Diet is a 4-phase diet consisting of a high-fat, high-protein eating pattern with low-carb vegetables. This diet is intended to promote weight loss, however there are a range of clinical studies on the diet’s effectiveness that show conflicting results. This diet may also increase the risk of developing heart disease, especially since the diet requires small amounts of fruits and vegetables and no whole-grains in the diet.
The Ketogenic Diet is a very low-carb, high-fat diet that shares many similarities with the Atkins Diet. This diet involves drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat -- typically consuming less than 25 grams of carbohydrates and over 165 grams of fat a day in a 2000 calorie meal plan. While those on the ketogenic diet do experience some metabolic changes that lead to a decrease in body fat, it also has its fair share of downsides. There is not much supporting evidence that shows the ketogenic diet to be effective in the long-term. Also, given the high ratio of fat in the diet, it can be easy to fill up on low-quality fats. Combined with the fact that the ketogenic diet greatly limits fruit and starchy vegetable intake, which are dense in nutrients and fiber, this eating pattern may lead to high cholesterol and an increased risk for heart disease.
The Paleo Diet is based upon the characteristics of ancient diets that require a high-protein, high-fiber eating plan. While one benefit is that it eliminates processed, sugary foods, it also eliminates healthy foods such as whole grains, starchy vegetables, legumes, and beans. Again, the Paleo Diet lacks substantial clinical evidence that it is effective, and lots of research shows the benefits of eating healthy whole grains and beans.
It is important to understand that although these diets may cause initial weight loss, it is not sustainable long-term and can actually lead to disordered eating patterns or more severe health complications. Since fad diets often cut out essential foods, individuals who go on these diets may be deficient in vitamins and minerals, and experience low energy due to the low carbohydrate intake from healthy, whole food sources. Additional symptoms individuals may experience include dehydration, weakness and fatigue, nausea, headaches and constipation.
Instead of a fad diet, try moving toward a time-tested eating pattern that supports health, such as the Mediterranean Diet.
The Mediteaneon diet is based on adopting the eating style of those who live in the Mediterraneon region of the world. This diet is made so people can enjoy longer lifespans and have less of a risk of developing chronic diseases. Foods that are encouraged on this diet include vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, yogurt, olive oil, cheese, moderate amounts of poultry, eggs, fish and small amounts of red wine. Foods that are restricted include refined sugars and carbohydrates, processed oils and animal protein, especially red meat. While it is beneficial to develop a balance of healthy food and lifestyle factors, restriction of any food can lead to detrimental eating habits later on.
If you are interested in changing your lifestyle and the way you eat, we recommend you speak to a registered dietitian before making the decision to try a fad diet. Rather than taking extreme measures to change your body weight, a dietitian can help you find an eating pattern that is balanced, includes foods you love, and helps your body thrive.