8 Fad Diets That Actually Work

Medically Reviewed on 8/25/2022
8 Fad Diets That Actually Work
Despite their popularity, fad diets should be approached with caution

Many fad diets promise dramatic weight loss or exaggerated health benefits, but most are rarely effective in the long term and are based on pseudoscience. 

Despite their popularity, fad diets should be approached with caution. However, there are a few fad diets whose basic principles can have positive effects on health.

Here are 8 fad diets that actually work.

8 fad diets that actually work

1. South Beach diet

The South Beach diet emphasizes the importance of regulating hunger by eating before it occurs. Dieters are encouraged to break the hunger-overeat-gain-weight cycle by focusing on eating:

  • Lean protein
  • Low-fat dairy
  • Healthy carbs
  • Whole grains
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits 

Although the first part of the diet is strict, the maintenance phase is intended to be a lifelong eating plan. This allows you to indulge in occasional treats while maintaining a healthy weight.

2. Atkins diet

The Atkins diet is the most well-known low-carb diet. It is divided into four stages, the first of which is a 2-week induction phase in which carbs are limited to 20 grams a day while protein and fat are allowed in unlimited amounts. Followers of this diet can progressively increase their carb intake in 5-gram increments to determine their optimal carb levels for losing weight and keeping it off.

Even after you have reached your weight-loss objectives, you must stick to a low-carb diet for the rest of your life. Otherwise, you will regain the weight you lost, which is usually the case with a low-carb diet.

3. Paleo diet

Also known as the caveman diet, the Paleo diet focuses on foods that humans consumed thousands of years ago. These include fish, lean meats, fruit, non-starchy vegetables, and nuts. Starchy vegetables, dairy foods, cereals, and processed foods should be avoided. 

The diet focuses on exercise, and proponents claim that it not only helps with weight loss but also reduces bloating and flatulence.

4. Keto diet

Keto focuses on restricting carbs to less than 50 mg per day as well as moderate protein and a high fat intake. The diet works by achieving a state of ketosis, in which your body uses fat for fuel instead of stored carbs.

However, the diet is very strict and difficult to adhere to. It can also put a strain on organs that rely on carbs as their major source of energy such as the heart and muscles. The transition from using glycogen to ketones for energy is difficult, and following a low-carb diet for an extended period is often unsustainable.

5. The Zone diet

The Zone diet claims that adjusting the balance of foods you consume can help you lose weight, reset your metabolism, and prevent chronic health issues such as heart disease and diabetes

To regulate insulin levels and hunger, dieters adopt a 30-30-40 split, obtaining 30% of their calories from protein, 30% from fat, and 40% from carbs. Followers applaud the Zone diet for its diversity and ease, whereas critics caution that it can be restrictive and lacks crucial nutrients.

6. Intermittent fasting diet

Intermittent fasting has become a type of fad diet that has gained popularity as an effective weight loss eating pattern. There are different types of intermittent fasting, but all involve cycling between periods of fasting and periods of eating.

Studies have reported that fasting is just as effective as a calorie-controlled diet for weight loss. It has also been proven to improve health indicators and result in the management of diabetes, hypertension, inflammatory disorders, cardiovascular function, cancer, and even neurodegenerative diseases.

7. Volumetrics

Volumetrics may be called a fad diet, but it is based on sound research. In contrast to conventional weight control practices, the Volumetrics diet emphasizes eating as much as possible while maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It focuses on low-calorie-density foods, meaning foods that are high in volume while being low in calories.

8. Vegan diet

Vegan diets can be either healthy or unhealthy, depending on the foods consumed. Vegan diets have been criticized for being imbalanced and excessive due to the absence of animal products. Vegans are at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency, which can result in neurological damage.

It is important to take measures to ensure that you get enough protein, iron, zinc, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and calcium from other foods.

What are the potential side effects associated with fad diets?

Although fad diets promote several benefits, they can be dangerous if followed incorrectly. Here are a few potential dangers associated with fad diets:

Micronutrient deficiency

Many fad diets severely limit the intake of several food categories, which reduces the number of crucial nutrients needed for health. Fad diets tend to focus on macronutrient content to reduce calories, such as a low-carb, low-fat, or high-protein diet, whereas micronutrient intake is often disregarded. 

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can result in lowered immunity, joint discomfort, hair loss, and other symptoms.


Constipation is another common issue linked to fad diets, particularly low-carb, high-protein, and high-fat diets, due to their low fiber content. Fiber is needed to prevent constipation and promote gut health.


Eating less than your body requires can cause fatigue. Both your brain and muscles derive energy from glucose, which is the primary fuel source for the body. Fad diets that are extremely low in calories or carbs can therefore leave you feeling sluggish and tired. Excessive exercise and insufficient food intake can also put your body into starvation mode, causing muscular weakness and mood swings.

Weight gain

Fad diets are often quick fixes to problems that actually need long-term changes to be effective in the long run. Although you may lose weight quickly while following a fad diet, it can be easy to regain the weight you lost once you return to your normal eating habits.

The bottom line

Overall, a well-balanced diet should incorporate a strategy that emphasizes eating a variety of healthy foods.

Here are some fundamental guidelines for personalizing dietary modifications while keeping personal tastes in mind:

  • Increase your consumption of whole foods and plant-based carbs such as vegetables, instead of refined or processed foods
  • Increase your intake of healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, avocado, and seafood
  • Limit your intake of high-fat animal products in favor of lean proteins
  • Reduce your intake of sugary drinks
  • Cook at home more often


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Medically Reviewed on 8/25/2022
Image Source: iStock image

Fad Diets: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/9476-fad-diets

9 diet fads to try (or skip completely) in 2022: https://utswmed.org/medblog/diets-best-and-worst/