The low-down on "fad" diets

Story Highlights

  • Diets that promote rapid weight loss usually have little effect on body fat
  • The negative health effects of high-protein, high-fat, low-carb diets can be quite serious
  • The answer is to avoid fad diets and stick to a balanced eating plan

It seems like every week there’s a new diet being touted as the best way ever to lose weight. These “fad” diets are usually about losing weight fast but have very little scientific basis. They may result in short-term weight loss but they are difficult to maintain and, in many cases, don’t offer the essential nutrients that only a balanced diet can provide.

Downside of fad diets

Diets that promote rapid weight loss usually have little effect on body fat. For example, high-protein, high-fat diets may result in rapid weight loss at first, but this is usually due in part to a loss of water because of low carbohydrate intake and effects on salt and water loss. If you continue on one of these diets, over time you might eat less because the body is moving from primarily using carbs to fat as your energy source. This process is known as ketosis. Protein levels in a high-protein diet are higher than those recommended and may actually put your health at risk!

The negative health effects of high-protein, high-fat, low-carb diets can be quite serious. Eating a lot of animal protein , saturated fat, and cholesterol can increase your “bad” cholesterol as can cutting down on high-carb, high-fibre foods. Restricting these foods may also increase blood pressure and cancer risk. A high-protein diet can be bad news for the kidneys of patients with diabetes because it can accelerate the progression of diabetic kidney disease. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can also result from these diets and you may experience and loss of lean muscle tissue.

Fad diets frequently encourage short-term changes in eating behaviour, rather than promoting changes that can be sustained over time.

The answer is to avoid fad diets and stick to a balanced eating plan!