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Exploring the Truth About Fad Diets

Weight loss is quite tricky. With all these new exercise regimens and fad diets that promise instant results, are they hype or hope? Fad diets, especially, have gained more popularity over the past few years. Diets such as the Keto diet, intermittent fasting, Mediterranean diet…the list goes on.

With the rise of Korean pop growing internationally over the past few years, females around the world find themselves following their idols’ extreme diet regimes – some diets even ranging on the borderline of dangerous.

One of the more popular diet routines is that of Korean singer better known as IU. She revealed in an interview that her diet calls for an apple for breakfast, two sweet potatoes for lunch and a bottle of protein shake for dinner.

What Are Fad Diets?

As defined by the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention, a fad diet refers to any weight loss plan that promises quick results with a temporary nutritional change1.  These diets are considered unhealthy as they provide individuals with fewer calories and nutrients.

Fad diets are not a new concept.

According to Foxcroft, the word diet originates from the Greek word ‘diaita’, and it was in the 19th century that people started dieting for aesthetic purposes2.  In 1963, Jean Nidetch founded Weight Watchers and in the 1970s, the ‘sedative’ Sleeping Beauty Diet grew in popularity3.

Fad diets such as The Atkins diet which was based on high-protein and low-carb intake also became popular in the 90s4. The hallmark of these diets is that they become popular almost overnight and only remain for a very short period of time.

Scrabble tiles that spell fad diet

What impact do fad diets have on our lifestyle?

More often than not, fad diets also propagate an unhealthy and unsustainable lifestyle that gains traction due to a celebrity endorsement or social media influencer.

However, some of these fad diets already did exist in the healthcare industry for the management of certain medical conditions5. When these diets gain popularity, they go from a prescribed diet plan to one with the sole objective of losing weight.

Given that some of these fad diets are actual diet plans that have been proven to show significant weight loss results, some of them are just fads that should be ignored. However, it is understandable why so many people fall for these diets, ignoring the potential for harm.

Characteristics of Fad Diets

Fad diets are usually described as a weight loss plan that guarantees quick weight loss and dramatic results with not much effort. While there are varying types of fad diets, all of them share some common characteristics6.

Here are some of the tell-tale signs to identifying a fad diet7:

  • Promises fast and significant weight loss without sacrificing fatty food as well as food rich in calories;
  • No need for regular exercise;
  • Limits range of food types;
  • Cuts out portions of necessary nutrients, with no clear replacements;
  • Lack of scientific evidence backing the claims;
  • If scientific evidence does exist, it often is extrapolated from one study or testimonials only; and
  • Proposes ‘miracle’ foods that can help with fat burning with minimal effort.

These are only some of the many signs that immediately prove that a diet plan is a fad diet, but there are a lot more signs that one can be on the lookout for. The general rule of thumb is that if a diet plan promises instant results that are too good to be true, it most likely is.

Health Consequences of Fad Diets

The main concern is that when weight loss occurs too fast, most of the lost weight is actually water and muscle, not actually fat tissue. Rapid weight loss can further lead to various health complications such as constipation, low nutrients as well as fatigue8.

Studies have shown that high fat/high protein diets such as The Atkins diet also result in a higher risk of heart disease9 and sleeping disorders10 to name a few.

On the other hand, low fat/low protein diets might increase the risk of inadequate intake of minerals such as calcium and zinc. For example, the Pritikin diet recommends that fat intake should be less than 10% of the daily energy intake which is close to the lowest limit of the daily requirement for essential fatty acids.

The adoption of unbalanced eating habits has also been connected with menstrual irregularity or amenorrhea.

Contrary to the claims associated with most fad diets or fasting regimes, it is clear that unfortunately, a ‘no effort, quick fix’ does not exist for those in pursuit of sustainable healthy weight loss and management11.

a women making a shape heart pointing to her belly area

But I lost weight from a fad diet! Doesn’t that mean that it works?

Fad diets can cause weight loss but it is not a magical property of the diet itself. Instead, the weight loss is the result of caloric restriction12.

A women stretching her jeans to see if it fits her

This may be considered to be a winning point in the favor of fad diets, but it couldn’t be further apart from that. While the caloric deficit is considered to be the only way to lose weight, restriction of nutrients is never recommended.

With fad diets, caloric restriction goes hand in hand with the nutrient deficit, which makes a person weak, instead of slim.

Fad diets may show an initial weight loss that is purely water weight, followed by a plateau with no weight gain or loss. Eventually, these diets slow metabolism to the point that body adapts to starvation and caloric restriction, resulting in weight gain13.

After that, it is all a slippery slope towards slow metabolism, weight gain, and other electrolyte imbalances due to long-term nutrient restriction.

Body Sculpting Methods for Fat Reduction

Body sculpting procedures are non-invasive methods of fat reduction that show a marked reduction in fat cells in the targeted region of the body. The basic concept for these procedures is to target the problem areas in the body with extreme temperatures, using either heat or sub-zero temperatures to cause apoptosis (cell death) in the fat cells so that they are eliminated from the body naturally.


CoolScultping is a method of non-invasive fat reduction where fat cells in the problem areas of the body are targeted using subzero temperatures. Vacuum cups are applied to the target region and then freezing temperatures are applied, these fat cells are frozen and broken down, and then eliminated from the body. There can be up to 27%* fat reduction with one session of CoolSculpting alone.


SculpSure, on the other hand, involves the use of laser technology which targets the problem area and then creates heat energy to melt the fat away. The broken-down fat cells are also eliminated out of the body naturally through the body’s natural waste disposal mechanism. There is also a marked fat reduction with this method with patients seeing up to 25%* of fat reduced in a single session.


Fad diets have been popular for decades due to its promise of quick weight loss without any exercise. Despite that, many people often suffer from many drawbacks such as lack of nutrition and low sustainability.

Today, instead of embarking on another unsustainable fad diet, there are many options available for those looking to get rid of stubborn fat pockets. It is important for you to weigh your options and choose the right modalities for your fat loss journey.


1. Khawandanah, J., & Tewfik, I. (2016). Fad diets: lifestyle promises and health challenges. Journal of Food Research, 5(6), 80. 2. Baker B. (2006). Weight loss and diet plans. The American journal of nursing, 106(6), 52–60. 3. Bueno, N. B., de Melo, I. S., de Oliveira, S. L., & da Rocha Ataide, T. (2013). Very-low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet v. low-fat diet for long-term weight loss: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. The British journal of nutrition, 110(7), 1178–1187. 4. Kuchkuntla, A. R., Limketkai, B., Nanda, S., Hurt, R. T., & Mundi, M. S. (2018). Fad Diets: Hype or Hope?. Current nutrition reports, 7(4), 310–323. 5. Blanco, J. C., Khatri, A., Kifayat, A., Cho, R., & Aronow, W. S. (2019). Starvation Ketoacidosis due to the Ketogenic Diet and Prolonged Fasting – A Possibly Dangerous Diet Trend. The American journal of case reports, 20, 1728–1731. 6. Springmann, M., Clark, M. A., Rayner, M., Scarborough, P., & Webb, P. (2021). The global and regional costs of healthy and sustainable dietary patterns: a modelling study. The Lancet. Planetary health, 5(11), e797–e807. 7. Wallace, H., Williams, D. S., & Pefanis, A. (2018). A Fad Diet Causing Acute Kidney Injury. Nephrology (Carlton, Vic.), 23(10), 962–963.
8. Ruden, D. M., Rasouli, P., & Lu, X. (2007). Potential long-term consequences of fad diets on health, cancer, and longevity: lessons learned from model organism studies. Technology in cancer research & treatment, 6(3), 247–254.
9. Maughan, R. J., Fallah, J., & Coyle, E. F. (2010). The effects of fasting on metabolism and performance. British journal of sports medicine, 44(7), 490–494.