Spotting Fad Diets
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 (for example, high protein diets
suggest eliminating carbohydrates, a significant element
of the recommended eating guidelines based on the food
Fad diets take form in many ways. low-fat , low
carbohydrates , high protein or focusing on one
particular food item such as grapefruit. These diets
lack major nutrients such as dietary
fiber and carbohydrates, as well as selected
vitamins, minerals, and protective phytochemicals, such
as antioxidants (substances found in vegetables which
are protective against disease). Over the long term, by
not receiving the proper amounts of these nutrients, you
may develop serious health problems later in life.
For the food groups that these diets do permit, the
proportions are either well above or well below those
recommended by major health organizations like the
American Heart Association and the American Dietetic
Association, as well as the Surgeon General and the U.S.
Department of Agriculture.
Some common claims of these diets 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.
This is because none of these diets teach you how to eat
How Do I Spot a Fad Diet?
While there is no set approach to identifying a fad
diet, many have the following characteristics:
- Recommendations that promise a quick fix
- Dire warnings of dangers from a single product
- Claims that sound too good to be true
- Simplistic conclusions drawn from a complex
- 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 review by other researchers
- 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 proper diet with moderate
portions is still the best method to lose weight and to
keep it off. Most people who make the change from a
typical high-fat diet and sedentary lifestyle to one
that follows a diet based on the recommended food
pyramid will slowly and safely lose weight.
Reviewed by the Department of Nutrition Therapy at The Cleveland Clinic.
Edited by Charlotte Grayson, MD
, WebMD, August 2004.
Portions of this page © The Cleveland Clinic
Last Editorial Review: 7/14/2005