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Say “No” to Fad Diets

Por Ana C. López, Nutrition Counselor, MyDiet™ -
Say “No” to Fad Diets

Every day new diets and diet products come out on the market. Companies are trying to sell the idea that weight loss can happen overnight, at the speed of light, and without any effort. However, most fad/"popular" diets and diet products don’t have scientific evidence to back up the claims that they make. Even worse, some of these diets and diet products can be hazardous to your health.  

There are several characteristics that can help you identify if a diet or diet product is not effective and safe. Beware if a diet/diet product:

  • Promises weight loss of more than 3 pounds per week (the healthy recommendation is to lose between 1-2 pounds/week). Even though these diets and diet products may lead to weight loss, many of these diets work by causing a loss of water and/or muscle, which doesn’t lead to a healthy, permanent weight loss. 
  • Offers quick and easy weight loss, without teaching you about the need to incorporate exercise and healthy eating principles. Always keep in mind that your health is what matters the most, and you shouldn’t try to lose weight by sacrificing your well-being. The best way to lose weight is the healthy way, which will also help you to prevent future diseases. 
  • Restricts entire food groups (cereals/grains, fruits, vegetables, meats, or dairy) and often identifies these food groups as the cause of weight gain. Remember that weight gain is due to a consumption of calories that is higher than your energy expenditure (this means you eat more calories than your body uses). There are no "bad" foods; weight gain is a result of the total of calories consumed over time.
  • Doesn’t provide portion size information.
  • Promotes eating only one food or food group for several days, and/or suggests that certain food combinations cause weight gain. Eliminating certain foods or food groups from your diet can cause nutrient deficiencies; besides these types of diets have no scientific validity. If the food restriction is severe, you may begin to feel weakness, fatigue, or the effects of hypoglycemia--which are indications of potential health problems caused by under nutrition or a nutrition deficiency. 
  • Offers rigid menu plans that are not based on the  United States Department of Agriculture's Dietary Guidelines and MyPyramid.
  • Bases its efficacy on people’s testimonials, instead of scientific research. 
  • Talks about eating “as much as you want” of one food or food group, while prohibiting others. 
  • Does not include a variety of foods. Always remember that a healthy diet should promote variety and a balance of foods so you make sure you meet all the requirements needed for body function.
  • Includes high amounts of protein and fats and low amounts of carbohydrates. Consuming most of your calories from high-protein products, such as meats, dairy, and eggs is not a healthy diet. Many high-protein foods are also high in saturated fat and cholesterol, which can contribute to increasing your risk of developing heart disease. Moreover, if the amount of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is low in your diet, it will not be able to meet your daily nutrient needs for fiber, and vitamins and minerals.
  • Causes initial rapid weight loss, because this is typically the result of water loss, and not true weight loss. These diets, if followed over a long period of time, can potentially contribute to other health problems. 
  • Claims to "burn fat."  Watch out! Many products with this type of a claim contain stimulants, such as caffeine or amphetamines, and can affect the nervous system, having potentially adverse effects that could be fatal. Always remember that products labeled as “natural” are not necessarily safe. In fact, many products, classified as "dietary supplements," are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and therefore are not monitored for their content.
  • Promises outcomes that seem too good to be true or even sound “magical,” requiring very little effort.  

Even though many of these diets and products give you explanations that may sound logical, they are usually not based on scientific research. The best thing you can do is consult with a registered dietitian who is trained to provide you with sound information based on scientific research and national dietary guidelines. 

Finally, keep in mind that the safest and most effective way to lose weight is through a healthy diet based on your own needs and characteristics together with an appropriate exercise regimen. 


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