Can Fad Diets Work?

Many dieters are still trying to find the magic bullet to weight loss. WebMD gets the skinny from experts on the latest quick-fix diets.

By Carol Sorgen
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

When singer Beyonce Knowles needed to lose 22 pounds in a hurry for her role in the film Dreamgirls, she went on a crash diet that consisted of drinking a mixture of water, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup as a substitute for regular meals. She lost the weight, and in the process sparked a run on maple syrup as news and photos of her newly svelte figure spread. But even Beyonce has been quick to tell interviewers, "I would not recommend it if someone wasn't doing a movie, because there are other ways to lose weight."

Beyonce's own caution to dieters probably comes as good news to nutritionists who don't think much of her quick-fix weight loss plan. "This diet is void of essential nutrients and probably doesn't promote healthful eating and lifestyle habits that would sustain any weight that is lost," says Jenna Anding, PhD, RD, LD, associate department head, department of nutrition and food science, Texas A&M University. "Also, losing 20 pounds in two weeks is not healthy; nutrition experts recommend a weekly weight loss of no more than 2 pounds per week."

Our Fascination With Fad Diets

The "syrup diet" is just one of the many diet plans (albeit one of the more extreme) to capture our weight-crazed fancy over the years. From Atkins to South Beach to the Zone to the Blood Type Diet -- to name just a few -- many of us are always on the lookout for the "magic bullet" that will help us shed pounds quickly, and more or less effortlessly.