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There are literally hundreds of different diets that have at one time or another been promoted as the best approach to losing weight. Unfortunately, most of them, in their efforts to succeed, involve omitting certain foods and sometimes even entire food groups.

There are many fad diets: fat-free, very-low-carbohydrate, high-protein, or those that focus on one particular food, such as grapefruit or cabbage. Some fad diets have you eliminate certain foods at specific times of the days, or only eat certain foods with other foods. Many of these diets may lack major nutrients, such as dietary fiber and carbohydrates, as well as selected vitamins, minerals, and protective phytochemicals. By not receiving the proper amounts of these nutrients, you can develop serious health problems later in life.

For the food groups that these diets do permit, the amounts are either well above or well below those recommended by major health organizations like the American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, as well as the Surgeon General and the United States Department of Agriculture.

Some common claims these diets make include blaming particular hormones for weight gain, suggesting that food can change body chemistry, or touting or banning a particular food. However, they all have one thing in common: They offer only a temporary solution to what for many people is a lifelong problem. Once the diet is stopped, the lost weight is usually regained quickly, since none of the diets teach behavior modification.

How do I spot a fad diet?

While there is no set approach to spotting a fad diet, the following guidelines can help. Fad diets tend to have:

  • Recommendations that promise a quick fix
  • Claims that sound too good to be true
  • Simplistic conclusions drawn from a complex study
  • Recommendations based on a single study
  • Dramatic statements that are refuted by reputable scientific organizations
  • Lists of "good" and "bad" foods
  • Recommendations made to help sell a product
  • Recommendations based on studies published without peer review
  • Recommendations from studies that ignore differences among individuals or groups
  • Eliminated one or more of the five food groups

Devoting yourself to a lifestyle that includes regular exercise and eating a variety of foods with moderate portions is still the best method to lose weight and to keep it off.


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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 6/12/2012...#9476