Edited by: Luxshmi Nageswaran
FAD Diets, which to some comically stand for “For a Day”, are common trends that tend to attract people who want to lose weight fast or conveniently. To others, FAD diets may mean diets that are currently in trend or have been around for quite a while that continue to gain popularity. While weight loss and maintenance can be life long journey for many, the urge to get it over with can be tempting. The main issue with many of these diets are that they create a caloric deficit or restrict important nutrients from someone’s lives that can be vital to the normal function of the body and are unsustainable in the long- term (1). The most notorious include juice cleanses, fit teas, and no carb/fat diets. However, some FAD diets can pose some benefits to an individual if done safely and with a long-term goal in mind. In addition to the cons of FAD diets, we will discuss some of their benefits in this post. Some of these diets including the Keto , Mediterranean , Vegan and Atkins diets.
One benefit of these FAD diets are that they allow the individual to recognize that a change needs to be made. They can be an effective way to provide awareness about the relationship between nutrition and weight loss. While this relationship may be futile, it opens up the conservation of why an individual may want to lose weight, what their motivators are, and what their setbacks may be (1). Many FAD diets are often times experienced with friends or family. This can be a great way to have external supports to help promote an end goal that although may be futile, does exist.
Individuals with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or hyperlipidemia may benefit from diets such as Keto or the Mediterranean diet. The keto diet, is highly promoted by celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Kim Kardashian, and Vinny Guadagnino. The keto diet is a high protein low/ zero carb diet that can be beneficial for individuals that want to control their blood sugar more strenuously (2) such as individuals with diabetes. By lowering blood glucose, A1C, lower appetite or weight loss-promoting ketogenic diets done in moderation can be beneficial (2).
While long-term weight loss may not be accomplished with FAD diets, short- term weight loss may occur. Some diets can be work as intended and result in short- term weight loss (3). This may involve the loss of water weight or stool but for those that want to lose weight fast, they may find some diets effective. It is always essential to weight the risks of rapid weight loss with the benefits and discuss with a healthcare provider as needed. Juice cleanses, which often restrict caloric intake drastically, promote increased gut motility/ diarrhea. Vegan diets also report weight loss as plant-based foods tend to be lower in calorie, it involves restricting many junk foods, and increasing fibre intake (4). One must always be cautious of vegan diets as the nutrients found in meat are vital to normal human functioning and should be replaced/supplemented in the diet.
One benefit of these FAD diets are that they allows the individual to recognize that a change needs to be made. They can be an effective way to provide awareness about the relationship between nutrition and weight loss.
Individuals with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or hyperlipidemia may benefit from these diets if maintained in the long term, such as the Keto or the Mediterranean diet.
Some diets can be work as intended and result in short-term weight loss. Though this may involve the loss of water weight or stool, but for those that want to lose weight fast may find some diets effective. It is always essential to weight the risks of rapid weight loss with the benefits and discuss with a healthcare provider as needed.
Paoli A. Ketogenic diet for obesity: friend or foe? Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2014 Feb 19;11(2):2092-107. doi: 10.3390/ijerph110202092. PMID: 24557522; PMCID: PMC3945587.
Henning, Susanne M et al. “Health benefit of vegetable/fruit juice-based diet: Role of microbiome.” Scientific reports vol. 7,1 2167. 19 May. 2017, doi:10.1038/s41598-017-02200-6
FAD diets typically have an association with losing weight quickly and being a quick fix. Doctors have had issues with fad diets for years, as individuals put themselves at an unhealthy caloric deficit that can result in them not getting enough vitamins and nutrients with their diet. There has been published research to show the benefits of these FAD diets for patients with epilepsy or diabetes [1,2]. However, these are typically not the focus, especially when we see them as marketing tools. When diets are normally introduced to patients, they get to discuss it with experienced, registered dieticians and other health professionals. This is usually not the case for individuals who want to simply try a new FAD diet.
We may see posts on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook or even magazine covers that discuss a new diet, how it can get people to a certain size, or lose a certain amount of weight in X-number of days. These types of messaging are what doctors and other healthcare professionals worry about, especially for a younger audience. Oklahoma State University put together a list of characteristics that FAD diets typically have which include :
Promote a quick fix
Promise dramatic results
Severely restrict calories
Promise weight loss
There is a cycle to dieting which can occur especially for individuals who are following these “quick fix” FAD diets. Due to the severe restriction in calories, people can feel deprived of food and may be tempted to “cheat” on their diet. Once they give into cravings, they can feel guilty, have low self-esteem, and poor confidence which causes them to start the cycle again .
Similar advice was given by the director of NHS, who states that individuals should stay away from FAD diets that try and promote a quick fix to weight loss. Instead individuals should incorporate more exercise into their lifestyle, reduce alcohol consumption, and eat more fruits and vegetables . They mention that there are health risks that can be associated with FAD diets, including diarrhoea, heart problems, and interference with oral contraptions .
It is difficult to say that all FAD diets are bad, as explained in our pros section of this discussion. Furthermore, the lack of new peer-reviewed literature on this topic can also make it difficult for health professionals to understand how FAD diets can negatively affect health. It is important to remember that one nutrient is not important than another , our bodies need carbohydrates, protein and fat to function well. It is more important to understand what type of nutrient you are eating, for example choosing unsaturated fats like peanut and olive oil over saturated fats like cream and butter for some meals .
FAD diets may work for some people; however, the largest takeaway is that there is no quick fix to losing weight. It is a process that will not happen instantaneously. Therefore, if losing weight is a goal of yours, especially as we come into the New Year, continue to choose healthier options and make sure to be physically active. Do not get sucked into these quick fixes that can do more harm than good.
FAD diets promote quick and drastic results that are often times unsustainable in the long run. This is accomplished by restricting or eliminating food groups that are often essential to a balanced diet.
FAD diets promote poor messaging to young people who may not know or be aware of healthy weight loss strategies.
There may be negative health risks to FAD diets such as juice cleanses or keto diets, which can include diarrhea, dehydration, nausea and low blood sugar. References:
Sampaio, Letícia Pereira de Brito. “Ketogenic diet for epilepsy treatment.” Arquivos de neuro-psiquiatria vol. 74,10 (2016): 842-848. doi:10.1590/0004-282X20160116
Ojo, Omorogieva. “Dietary Intake and Type 2 Diabetes.” Nutrients vol. 11,9 2177. 11 Sep. 2019, doi:10.3390/nu11092177
Mahase, Elisabeth. “Fad diets are at best ineffective and can be harmful, warns NHS medical director.” BMJ (Clinical research ed.) vol. 367 l7083. 30 Dec. 2019, doi:10.1136/bmj.l7083