What are fad diets?

Hundreds of diets are being promoted as the best approach to losing weight. Unfortunately, many of these diets involve eliminating foods that contain necessary nutrients. Some diets even cut entire food groups. These are fad diets.

For example, fad diets may include those that are fat-free, very-low-carbohydrate, or high protein. Some fad diets focus on a particular food, such as grapefruit or cabbage. Some have you eliminate certain foods at specific times of the day. Others allow you certain foods, as long as you eat them along with certain 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.

Common claims these diets make include blaming particular hormones for weight gain, suggesting that food can change body chemistry. Or they may hype or ban a particular food.

However, all have one thing in common: 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 (changing how you eat).

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
  • Elimination of one or more of the five food groups (fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy)

What is still the best method to lose weight and keep it off? Exercise regularly and eat a variety of foods with moderate portions.

References

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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: 3/31/2017...#9476