What are fad diets? Why are they popular instead of being unsafe?

Andara Puchino

Weight loss is of great concern among today’s generation, especially among youngsters who aspire perfect body shapes as per the assumption of society. The ‘ideal body shape’ expectation in many areas of work, social pressure to look thin and the ‘fear of being missed out in this competitive world often take people to the wrong dietary practices.

According to The American Dietetic Association, a fad diet is a type of diet that ensures instant weight loss without any need to perform exercise or physical activities but does not rely on clear scientific evidence and is thus considered to be an unsafe diet that can increase the risk of health conditions such as kidney damage, ketosis and disruption of fluid. In this article, we will discuss fad diets in detail. Take a look.

What are fad diets?

As aforementioned, fad diets are diet types that promise effective weight loss but are based on anecdotal evidence and short-term results. According to a study, fad diets offer the consumption of tasty and our favourite foods, but severely restricts certain food categories.

They are low-kilojoule diets or say those that provide less energy than an individual’s requirement. If carried out successfully for a longer period, a fad diet with less energy intake can result in long-term weight loss.

The study adds that the idea behind these diet types is to modify eating patterns and maintain physical activity so that balanced eating consisting of all nutrients is achieved.

Another questionnaire-based study on early adulthood girl models with an average age of 21 says that the type of fad diet which is highly carried out by models is consuming low-fat drinks such as slimming tea and fibrous drinks, with the intake of just one type of food, either protein or carbs or fruits and vegetables. The drinks may help eliminate fat around 57.6 per cent while sticking to just one food type may cause a reduction of around 55.7 per cent fat.

Examples of fad diets

Some of the diet types that can be considered as fad diets include:

1. Ketogenic diet

2. The Carbohydrate Addict’s Diet

3. Vegan diet

4. The Pritikin Principle

5. Atkins diet

6. Cambridge Diet

7. Paleo Diet

8. Volumetrics Weight-Control Plan

9. SlimFast diet

Note: Some of the Fad Diets like Ketogenic and Atkins diets are considered to be healthy with many benefits.

How to identify a fad diet?

You can identify a fad diet when it:

1. Promises instant weight loss.

2. Ensures that food can help change body chemistry and help lose weight.

3. Claims effective weight loss based on testimonials only or anecdotal studies.

4. Claiming weight loss by endorsing celebrities or influencers.

5. Restrict food groups like removing gluten or carbs from the diet.

6. Promotes a ‘food combination’ as a quick fix for weight management.

7. Claims weight loss based on before and after photos.

8. Requires you to invest a lot of money to get the advantages of weight loss pills or prepackaged meals.

Why do fad diets don’t work?

Fad diets often cause people to deprive them of their favourite foods or a food category, which backfires and often results in overconsumption of these foods.


Fad diets often cause people to deprive them of their favourite foods or a food category, which backfires and often results in overconsumption of these foods.

Avoidance of certain food categories without any related medical condition

An associate professor Christopher Gustafson at the University of Lincoln, who is also a co-led of a study published in the journal Appetite says that people without Celiac disease or any gluten sensitivity are often seen to avoid the consumption of gluten diets to follow the fad diet and reduce weight. This causes them to miss out on essential nutrients even if they are not allergic to them and cause them some kind of nutritional deficiencies.

Causes deficient in micronutrients

Though fad diets result in effective weight loss, they may cause micronutrient deficiencies, says a study. These diets cause less consumption of one or the other foods and result in less intake of nutrients than the daily recommended amounts, causing deficiency in micronutrients.

May cause eating disorders

People, especially celebrities, try harder to get an ideal body shape. This often triggers dissatisfaction with their body image and leads them to some kind of eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa.

Health problems related to fad diets

Fad diets are unsafe because they may cause certain health problems like:

1. Chronic energy efficiency

2. Diverticulitis

3. Constipation

4. Headache & Nausea

5. Micronutrient deficiencies

6. Fatigue and weakness

7. Dehydration

Are there any health benefits of fad diets?

Instant weight loss is one of the primary benefits of fad diets, be it in an unsafe way. According to the Sports Dietician Australia, some of the health benefits of fad diets like the paleo diet, keto diet and Atkins diet may include good skin health, good digestion and good overall health in the long run.

What to do?

Instead of following a fad diet, one should focus on following a balanced diet type that includes all the nutrients and should also include your favourite foods (in small amounts) without causing deprivation. Therefore you should, Consume all food types that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Consume plenty of water. Avoid packaged foods as they are high in salt and sweeteners. Instead, opt for natural sweeteners like jaggery. Limit alcohol intake

Understanding your body is the most important factor in maintaining a healthy diet. Experts say that simply following a diet type for weight loss is unhealthy in the long run and may increase the risk of diseases. Therefore, if you want to lose weight, make plans by consulting a dietician or a nutritionist or a medical expert and then make a diet plan based on your medical condition. Never expect results in a short period and remember, that all good things take time.

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Published on: Friday, April 08, 2022, 07:00 AM IST


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