FAD DIETS: Their Mini Boon And BIG Banes

Date Posted: April 25, 2014
“I’m planning to do GM Diet. Is that good? …or how about Blood Type Diet? I heard Miranda Kerr is doing it.” 

In our profession, Registered Nutritionist-Dietitians (RNDs) are most of the time, being mistaken as the proponents of Fad Diets that are spreading like wildfire and multiplying like rabbits. Since proper diet and balanced nutrition is our bread and butter, and promotion of optimum health plus sound mind and body is our honey and mustard, and sometimes, a person’s achievement of visually appealing body with defined cuts and curves as the cherry on top, we would like to distance ourselves from diets that are most of the time unsafe, unsteady, depriving, and with a painful backlash that a person might experience in the long-run.

What exactly is a Fad Diet?

When you try to google it, the highlighted definition of Fad Diet is, “a reducing diet that enjoys temporary popularity”. Others also add “… offers drastic, but momentary result”, owing to the cutting-down or elimination of certain food groups that we consume and must consume, most of the time. Majority of these diets are being dignified and promoted by celebrities and other media personalities in which many of their fans try to emulate with conceived positive health effect, and a hope of harvesting the same outcome. Fad diets demand a lot of sacrifice and prohibition. It’s either it will ask that you should have more of these, and little to none of those, contrary to the philosophy the RNDs adhere to in which, “Enjoy your food in a balanced manner. Do not divest nor overindulge.”

So many ask: How to know if a diet is just a fad? It’s easy to distinguish them. Most of them come with a fancy, yet complex and scientific sounding names that resemble TV commercial taglines. Others are named after its inventor that either doesn’t have any practical use in medical nutrition, or must only be used for medical nutrition purposes. Here are some fad diets that I have encountered frequently being asked during consultations: 

Atkins Diet

This diet basically recommends that you limit your consumption of carbohydrates and lean more on protein rich foods. Since we consume fewer carbohydrates, our body, which uses glucose as the main source of energy, will sway towards “ketosis” instead. Ketosis is a process in which our body will use stored fats as alternate source of energy since glucose is nearly absent to do its primary job. The first phase of this diet is similar to Ketogenic Diet which is used as a diet therapy for people diagnosed with epilepsy.  Atkins promises that you can lose for up to a whopping 8 pounds in a week, provided that the process is being strictly followed. The downfall however is, ketosis disturbs our body’s acid-base balance which might make you experience nausea, fatigue (especially if physically active), elevated uric acid (which may exacerbate kidney disease and cause inflammation of the joints in those predisposed to gout) and bad breath.

Paleolithic Diet

Commonly known with its nicknames Paleo Diet or Cave Man Diet, this fad’s philosophy is that we should go back to our ancestral diet, particularly the Paleolithic era which our ancestors are accustomed to guzzle. Paleolithic era diet is composed mainly of very high protein foods from undomesticated animals, limited amount of carbohydrates and significant amount of fat. Strict Paleo advocates even suggest having raw meat instead since people during that era are hunters that devour on fresh, raw meat. This diet garnered a lot of criticism since many experts argue that the genetic make-up of modern humans are already altered in contrast to its predecessors that calls for a diet suited to their environment and lifestyle. With this, the result that you might get is almost the same as Atkins’ in which significant amount of body fat percentage is lost due to ketosis. The downfall is also the same as Atkins, added with a risk of parasitic infection if raw food, specifically meat, will be consumed. 

HCG Diet

HCG, which stands for Human Chorionic Gonadotropin is a hormone produced by the syncytiotrophoblast, a component of the fertilized egg, after conception. Following implantation, the syncytiotrophoblast gives rise to BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH. So much intricacy? How about if I tell you that this diet cuts your total caloric intake to as low as 500 a day, paired with an injection of HCG hormone everyday? HCG injectables is believed to be beneficial for losing stubborn, hard to get rid body fats, only if paired with a very low calorie diet. Many experts argue that probably, extreme weight loss, with up to a pound in a day, comes from to the over the edge calorie restriction. This diet also got some peculiar imperatives including limitation to one kind of vegetable in a meal, restriction to hygiene products (I know right?) and exercise (wanna say bye to Ringside?). So weight loss? Oh hoho. A definite and resounding yes. Repercussion? Let’s not state the obvious. Oh and yeah, it’s also worth noting that HCG is a hormone released by cancer cells.  

GM Diet

The diet made for General Motors employees. It is a 7-day program that promises weight loss of 10-17 pounds on its span. Generally, many state that this diet has no recorded downside while following the program. But others argue that there are recorded side-effects which are: muscle weakness during the first few days of restriction from any form of protein. Also, if the diet is not followed in a sequential and chronological way, you might not just experience a rebound, but you also might garner more pounds than what you initially had; and dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. In fact, one of our clients even experienced incessant leg cramp during the fifth day of following this diet. 

Blood-Type Diet

As the name implies, each blood type necessitates and restricts certain kinds of foods and certain food habit is distinct to each blood-type. Type O people, described as “the hunter” must thrive from protein rich foods. Type A people, aka “the agrarian” must be free from red meat and must have a generous amount of vegetables on their plates instead. Type B people, who are the “nomads” must consume dairy. Type AB pips, or the “enigma” pips, must have what Types A and B are having since they are presumed to be the intermediate between the two blood-types. Talking about Divergent movie, have you watched it? 

This diet drew a lot of criticism from the scientific community since it doesn’t have any scientific evidences to stand as its backbone. The promise that it makes is that you will lose drastically because once again, you are restricting yourself to a certain food group that your faction requires. Blood-type I mean. Type A people following this diet might suffer the same consequence as what Atkins and Paleo fans might experience. Type B people might suffer from atrophy or muscle wasting since high biologic protein sources are absent, Type O might be at risk from cardiovascular diseases since dairy products are high in saturated fats, and type AB people though they might be the luckiest among the rest, are still in the edge of the cliff since they can’t have what type O people are having.

So there. These are the usual Fad Diets that are being asked to me and Glory. Surprisingly, South Beach Diet, probably the diet that created the loudest sound in the media before, is no longer in the glare of publicity to some of our clients. Natural death is inevitable to these fads but I will not be surprised if it will be resurrected probably in a decade or two. 

We RNDs would like you to enjoy your food in simple, safe, and healthy ways. Eating must not be a knuckle bleeding and tormenting array of restriction. The rule is simple. Follow your RNDs advice. In fact, you can have whatever you desire, (though certain medical conditions might have contraindications) but have it in controlled and considerable portions. Don’t just do weight loss for aesthetic purposes. Do it for health and all the cherries will just drop into place. 

Ask your RND. They know the answer. 

By: Romer B. Estrada, RND
       Nutritionist at Ringside Fitness