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The Dangers of Fad Diets

Content by: Jamie Rinaldi RD LD

Not all diets are created equal. If it sounds too good to be true, then it likely is! Learn how to decipher between healthy and harmful eating patterns.

The Dangers of Fad Diets


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It’s tempting for those watching their weight to follow a trendy diet that promises quick and easy results. Countless magical routes to weight loss have been publicized for over a century, luring dieters to restrict themselves in a multitude of ways.

The Challenge of Weight Loss Diets:
● Most fad diets eliminate certain foods, food groups, or nutrients, making them unpleasant and unsustainable in the long term.
● Such restrictions may cause an obsession with food and potentially, eating disorders.
● Being deprived of something can make it all the more tempting and lead to intense cravings and binging, which results in guilt and more pronounced dissatisfaction with one’s body.
● Dieters often get trapped in a vicious cycle of cutting out certain foods, wanting them, giving in to their desires, feeling bad about themselves, and resuming another diet - what we call “yo yo dieting.”
● Restrictive diets also have physical consequences, such as nutrient deficiencies, difficulty sleeping, headaches, and lack of energy. They can also lead to bone and muscle loss, electrolyte imbalances, and nutrient toxicities.

Harmful Effects:
For as unpleasant as the above challenges may be, there are actual dangers to certain weight loss diets and claims.
● For those with certain chronic conditions like diabetes mellitus or inflammatory bowel disease, fad diets may be particularly unsafe.
● Detoxification diets or cleanses, designed to purify the body, may actually be harmful to the internal organs.
● Detox diets may be dangerously low in calories, and not appropriate to follow without the supervision of a physician.
● If there are known or unknown underlying conditions, these diets can create serious health risks.

NOTE: Health professionals are well aware that humans have organs that detoxify, primarily the liver and kidneys. These organs naturally perform this role in the body.

Final Thoughts:
Many people follow diets for reasons other than weight management, such as religious beliefs, food intolerances, and support of animal rights. However, any weight loss plan that requires the exclusion of food groups or severe limitations of specific macronutrients is suspect.

In pursuing a safe way to lose weight, one should consult a physician or registered dietitian.

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