In the past years, fad diets have gained huge popularity as weight loss became one of the major health concerns in the past decade. Every other day you hear about a new diet that promises weight loss. Many people blindly follow a fad diet which can offer them quick results. To describe the effect of following a fad diet, how far fad diets are healthy and different fad diets of the past decade, we spoke to different experts. Here are some insights, expert opinions and case studies from Ms. Pavithra N Raj (Chief Dietician), Soumita Biswas (Chief Nutritionist), Diksha Sharma (Clinical Nutritionist) and Dr. Rakesh Pandit (Senior Consultant and HOD Internal Medicine).
Why fad diets are gaining huge popularity and why people are blindly following them?
Chief Dietician, Pavithra N Raj, explains, "Fad diets are gaining popularity due to its varied and fancy names and strategies. Most people read up random information about paleo or vegan or Mediterranean diet and start following with lack of complete information about it. People are not ready to lose weight by following a proper diet or by involving themselves in physical activity but what they prefer instead is a fad diet as it shows immediate weight loss with minimum efforts. But what they do not realize is that these diets patterns on a long run can cause deficiencies, malnutrition and other health issues."
Nutritionist, Diksha Sharma, explains "Fad diets are stylish weight loss plans that promise dramatic results. People are often willing to try anything that promises to help them lose weight. They want to look better. So, quick and easy weight loss appeals to them."
How many people reach out to you on an average day to know more about such diets?
Dr. Rakesh Pandit revealed that alteast 3 to 4 people ask about these diets every day.
Nutritionist, Diksha also added, "1-2 people per day prefer to try the quick fix of a fad diet instead of making efforts to lose weight through long-term changes in their diet and exercise routine. It is better to give sensible advice to lose weight. One should eat low calorie and high fibre diet (in appropriate proportions). One should exercise more and follow short and frequent meal pattern."
7 popular diets of the past decade
1. Keto Diet
Keto diet has gained huge popularity in the past years. From celebrities to fitness enthusiasts many switched to keto diet for weight loss. Keto diet is a low carbohydrate, high fat with moderate protein consumption. Initially, it was for people with seizure disorders but it also helps in quick weight loss. There are some disadvantages as well as it leads to increased lipid profile, weight re-gain and constipation.
2. Intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting is also quite popular. This encourages you to fast for two days with 75% energy restriction. The following five days focus on indulging in Mediterranean style food. This diet results in reduced energy intake on unrestricted days. Research has shown that people following this diet see results such as weight loss, improved levels of body fat and lower insulin levels. This diet is easier to follow than other diets. The results might be promising, but it needs to be studied on a longer-term basis. Diabetics have to be careful and follow it under guidance to avoid hypoglycaemia.
3. Vegan diet
A vegan diet contains only plants (such as vegetables, grains, nuts and fruits) and foods made from plants. Vegans do not eat foods that come from animals, including dairy products and eggs. Vegan diet makes you eat more fibre rich foods that are low in calories. This results in weight loss. Most people switch to a vegan diet for many reasons other than weight loss. But a person following a vegan diet may experience deficiency of micro-nutrients like calcium, vitamin B12, folate and iron.
4. Weight watcher
Weight Watchers or WW is a popular commercial diet and comprehensive program for weight loss based on a point system, meal replacement and counselling. It is a leader in the commercial diet industry. This diet produces weight loss comparable to other diets supervised by nutrition professionals. This diet does not restrict you from eating a particular food. It helps you understand the need to choose a healthy lifestyle.
5. Paleo diet
Paleo diet also helps in weight loss. It takes you back to the early eating habits of humans. Ms. Pavithra N Raj who is a Chief Dietician explains that patients who have tried following this diet, were not able to adhere to it as it consisted of large quantities of meat, they complained of gastro-intestinal disturbances like diarrhea, and also due to other health issues like joint pains when tested, patient had high cholesterol levels and high uric acid levels (gout).
6. Mediterranean diet
A patient, who attempted to follow a Mediterranean diet, complained of heartburns initially which led to GERD and also had high serum potassium levels-due to high citrus fruits and red wine in the diet. The patient also found it unaffordable as most of the cooking had to be done in olive oil.
If a person follows the diet in a controlled manner, it can help with weight loss, maintain a healthy heart, lowers cholesterol levels, prevent respiratory diseases and cancer. But if there is a lack of control over the diet it can lead to diarrhea, heartburn and GERD. Mediterranean Diets may be effective in lowering risks of cardiovascular diseases, but there is an intake of moderately less dairy products hence can lead to calcium and vitamin D deficiencies.
7. Low-fat diet
Chief Nutritionist, Soumita Biswas shared a case history and explained, "If we'll discuss the real scenario, I have seen a young lady aged 28, who came to me with nausea and fatigue. When I started taking her dietary recall, she explained she was on low-fat diet recommended by one of her close friends to reduce weight. She restricted her calories by restricting fats and oils and consumed more vegetables and fruits with very minimum carbs. After one month she reduced almost 6kgs, which was quite drastic. She was feeling giddiness in-between and was getting tired and fatigued easily. The imbalance of nutrition and low-fat consumption (which was low in protein also) made her fatigued and was unable to sustain the weight loss for long term."
Are fad diets safe for one's health?
"Fad diets are not considered healthy because they do not address the problem that has caused weight gain. Since these types of diets usually show significant weight loss in a short period without much effort, people can gain back the weight once they stop these diets as one re-establish their old unhealthy eating patterns. Following these diets on long run can also cause nutritional deficiencies. One should not follow a fad diet without expert supervision," adds Pavithra N Raj.
(Ms. Pavithra N Raj, Chief Dietician, Columbia Asia Referral Hospital Yeshwanthpur)
(Soumita Biswas, Chief Nutritionist, Aster RV Hospital, J P Nagar, Bangalore)
(Dt Diksha Sharma, Clinical Nutritionist, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Shalimar Bagh)
(Dr. Rakesh Pandit, Senior Consultant & HOD, Internal Medicine, Aakash Healthcare Super Specialty Hospital, Dwarka)
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