Posted by: Mary | 2009/03/03

Fad diets

Hi there, I always see that fad diets are so dangerous and bad for you but really can' t understand why. Can you please clarify the situation for me?

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Our expert says:
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Dear Mary
There are many reasons why fad diets are dangerous and bad for you. Some of these fad diets are in actual fact starvation diets providing less than 4000 kJ per day (lettuce leaves and cucumber, etc), which not only exposes dieters to the danger of developing deficiencies, but can have a rebound effect that hampers weightloss (the body correctly perceives such situations as "starvation" and shuts down its weightloss systems). Other fad diets tend to be of the Atkins kind which concentrate on extremely high protein (and fat) intakes. My dietetic colleagues and I have a problem with high-protein diets because such diets automatically expose you to high levels of fat, saturated fat and cholesterol as all animal protein foods such as meat, eggs and poultry contain animal fats which in turn contain these 'bad' fats which in turn can exacerbate high blood cholesterol and lipid levels predisposing to heart disease and certain cancers. A high protein intake may also have a negative effect on kidney function and leach calcium out of the body. There is also not yet sufficient evidence that shows that these high-protein diets sustain weight loss in the long-term, which is after all the purpose of trying to lose weight. Then there is also the problem of a lack of protective nutrients (bioflavonoids, phytochemicals, etc which are mainly found in plant foods) and dietary fibre, so that using a high-protein diet for long periods can cause certain deficiencies and constipation. Then there are fad diets that make you use all kinds of potentially dangerous slimming pills and products. Some of these slimming pills and products can even be fatal and some of them don't cause weightloss, but cost a lot of money. At the end of the day it is safer and more sensible to eat a balanced low-fat, energy-reduced diet and to do regular daily aerobic exercise to lose weight. The actual purpose of a diet and exercise is to change bad eating habits and lack of physical activity for the rest of the patient's life.
Best regards

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