How to spot and avoid fad diets

New diets are popping up all the time with claims of improved health and quick and easy weight loss. Most of these diets are not backed by adequate scientific research, are very restrictive and only produce short term results. Here is a closer look at a few popular fad diets with what they claim.

Juice Cleanse/Juice Fast
The Claim: Achieve optimal benefits from fruits and vegetables in the juiced form. This type of cleanse helps to detoxify your body, boost your immune system and promote rapid weight loss.
Diet structure:
· Consists mainly of raw fruits and vegetables blenderized into juice form for every meal and snack.
· Can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.
· Roughly 1,000-1,200 calories per day.
The Facts:
· Inadequate scientific research that proves the juiced form of fruits and vegetables is more effective than the whole food.
· Fiber and some of the antioxidants are destroyed during the juicing process.
· Fructose is absorbed more quickly due to lower fiber content and can cause spikes and drops in blood sugar.
· Our liver, kidneys and intestines are very efficient at ridding our bodies of toxins, we do not need a juice cleanse to do this.
· Very low in total calories, protein, fiber and calcium.
· Impractical, nutritionally inadequate and like most fad diets, is not sustainable long term.
It does not teach healthy eating habits
Provides temporary results mainly due to calorie restriction and weight gain is likely after resuming old eating habits
If you are going to “juice” to increase fruit and vegetable consumption, one per day is plenty

Herbal Supplements, Diet Pills, Etc.
There are too many out there to just focus on one, so I am discussing them as a group.
The Claim: Most of these herbal supplements claim either claim 1) suppressed appetite, 2) increased metabolism or 3) blocking fat from entering fat cells.
Most of these products also state “Improved results when paired with a healthy diet and physical activity. So is it the product or the lifestyle change?
The facts:
Scientific research is usually inadequate or inconclusive.
Not regulated by the FDA- no safety or efficacy testing required to be put on the market.
Because they are not regulated, herbal/dietary supplements may be contaminated with other herbs, pesticides, metals and illegal ingredients that are not listed on the label.
They can cause interactions with other medications you may be taking.
* Always consult your doctor before starting herbal supplements.
To Summarize:
· Skip the expensive, potentially hazardous herbal supplements and make small changes to improve diet and increase physical activity

Extremely Low Carb/Atkins
The Claim: Rapid weight loss by changing your metabolism
Diet Structure:
· Limit total carbohydrate intake to less than 20 grams per day
· Cuts out: all dairy, fruit, whole grains, legumes
· Main focus is protein, fat, non starchy veggies
Normal metabolism:
· Carbohydrates break down into glucose, which is your body’s main fuel source. The brain and muscles use glucose as energy to perform daily functions.
· Based on a 2,000 calorie diet, 250 grams of carbohydrate will provide the recommended 50 percent of total calories from carbohydrates.
· When we eat too many carbs, they get stored as fat for later use.
How very low carb diets work:
· Changes normal metabolism by switching from using carbs for energy to using fat for energy. This produces ketones.
· Your brain and muscles will use ketones for energy but don’t utilize them as efficiently as glucose.
Side Effects:
· Lack of carbohydrate will leave you exhausted, can cause mood swings due to drops in blood glucose, light headedness, nausea and lack of focus
· Initial weight loss is mostly water weight
· Cannot and should not maintain this diet forever as it will promote nutritional deficiencies
· Resume old eating habits = immediate weight gain
Solution: Eat carbs in moderation. Avoid/limit simple carbs that provide little nutritional value: Soda, fruit drinks, baked goods, processed crackers/cookies, ice cream, etc.
To Summarize:
No need to go to extremes and cut out whole food groups: dairy, grains, fruits, legumes
Be smart about the type and quality of carbs you are eating to stay close to the 250g daily range
Example: A lunch from McDonalds consisting of a Big Mac, Medium Fries, Medium Coca Cola and a Hot Fudge sundae provides you with ~200g of carbohydrate. This is mostly sugar and refined grains and already puts you close to your daily recommendation. Instead, compare with a lunch made at home consisting of turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread, ½ cup of sliced fruit, 1 cup of garden salad with 2 tablespoons dressing and a seltzer water provides ~60g of carbohydrate. The carbohydrates are now coming from fruits, vegetables and whole grains and the total grams carbohydrate is much less.

Tips to Avoid the Fad:
· Discuss with your doctor or dietitian before trying any new diet.
· Avoid diets that claim things like “fat melting”, “blast belly fat”, “effortless weight loss”, “don’t change your eating habits and still lose weight”. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
· Slow and steady wins the race. A well balanced diet that focuses on quality carbohydrate foods (fruits, vegetables and whole grains), lean proteins, low-fat dairy and healthy fats paired with physical activity is your best bet at achieving and maintain weight loss.
If you are interested in learning more about nutrition counseling sessions with a registered dietitian at Noble Hospital, please call 413-568-2811 ex: 5671 for more information.
Allison Mitchell RD,LDN, is the Clinical Nutrition Manager at Noble Hospital.

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