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Fad Diets: The Debunking

We are now almost a month and a half into the New Year!  How are those New Year’s resolutions going?    Are they started, fizzled, or going strong?  This year is no different from previous years when it comes to making changes in one’s life.  Becoming fitter, healthier, and losing weight continued to be in the top 10 to 15 most popular resolutions.  Other top resolutions included drinking more water, drinking less alcohol, and becoming vegetarian.  The question is how and where are the citizens of the United States going to for help with their resolutions. They are going to the internet most likely, where they can find over 400 million results when you put the word “Diet” into the search engine Google.  In 2012, ABC News noted the diet and health industry was weighing in as a $20 billion dollar industry and growing.

How to Spot a Fad Diet

With government agencies pushing for lifestyle changes that decrease chronic disease, increase activity and promote healthier youth populations, it can be very over whelming when you see 400 million different ways to achieve it.  An educational piece all should learn when researching “diets”, is how to spot a Fad Diet before time, energy, money, and mental health all are wasted.

According to the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, KidsHealth, and Today’s Dietitian magazine, there are some conquering check lists that can help individuals judge whether their chosen “diet” plan is a friend or foe. The below checklist high lights a few red flags that will alert you to diets that are not well rounded nor evidence based for healthy lifestyles.

  1.  Eliminating complete food groups. Diets such as Atkins (low carb diet) and Paleo (eat like a caveman) eliminate whole food groups such as dairy, grains, and legumes for weight loss and “healthier” lifestyles.  There are valued nutrients in carbohydrates, grains, legumes and dairy products.   A healthy diet revolves around moderation and variety; this includes foods from the dairy, grains, and legumes group.   If you have celiac disease, a gluten sensitivity, are lactose intolerant, or have a milk protein allergy you should consult your physician or registered dietitian for help with specific dietary restrictions.
  2. Profound weight loss in a relatively short amount of time. If weight loss is the overall outcome that you are looking for, a normal weight loss recommendation is between 1 to 2 pounds per week.  Anything more than this brings in more issues such as loss of hydration, loss of lean body mass, and malabsorption of nutrients.
  3. The diet is based on taking pills, herbs, powders, or meal replacements. The over $20 billion dollar industry stated above includes this aspect as well.  Many of these supplements may contain malabsorptive properties, appetite suppressants, or other harmful chemicals.  These supplements are also very costly and usually prescribe extended use before seeing results.
  4. Claims of success not based on scientific studies, validity of facts, or reputable scientific organizations. “Lose 10 pounds in 15 days before you go on that summer vacation!”  Be sure to check conflicts of interest such as where their money came from for conducting their “studies”.  Spot reduction (losing weight in specific areas), 6 pack abs, and other claims should be not trusted.
  5. Strict meal plans with “good” and “bad” food lists.  Treating different foods in strict categories will only set individuals up for failure.  Also suggesting you have to eat certain foods in specific combinations and specific times of day creates a very strict diet environment.  When developing your own healthy eating habits finding your likes and dislikes will help foster good eating habits and variety of nutrients.

Reliable Sources

There are other great guidelines to look at when debunking Fad Diets.  However, the above 5 suggestions will help you weed through that Google search.  Great resources for help in achieving healthier lifestyles include the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Today’s Dietitian Magazine, the American Diabetes Association, and  Any further information please contact your county expert in Nutrition and Food Safety.

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Extension Educator:
Vicki Hayman – (307) 746-3531

University of Wyoming Extension

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Extension Educator:
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Issued in furtherance of extension work, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Kelly Crane, Director, University of Wyoming Extension, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Wyoming Extension, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming 82071.

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