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Trend Analysis: Fad Diets

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Fad Diets

Any American with a television set has surely seen an infomercial by some company touting the next fool proof diet scheme. These diet plans claim that customers will lose twenty, thirty, or many more pounds in weeks. Americans are obsessed with dieting, and rightly so. Today, thirty-three percent of the population is classified as being obese, or extremely over weight. This alarming statistic has risen almost ten percent from figures in the 1980s. At any time there are fifteen to thirty-five percent of Americans actively trying to lose weight. (Maynard) Therefore, with the population looking for a quick and easy fix for their weight issues, many turn to the fad diets. Americans spend forty billion dollars annually on dieting, so there is no wonder why there are so many companies trying to get their piece of the dieting pie. However, most of these diets are not based upon solid nutritional information. Many of these diets call for the dieter to only eat certain foods, while others recommend fasting, or almost starvation. Most of these diets do not give your body the essential nutrients it needs to function normally. There are also many negative side effects associated with the quick fix diets. Americans need to see the truth behind these fly by night diet plans and understand that there are healthy alternatives that will change their lives and promote long term weight loss.

The first, and probably most popular, of the fad diets is the low carbohydrate, or “low carb diet.” It is also referred to as a high protein diet. This diet has been made popular by the Atkins, Zone, and South Beach diet plans. There are an estimated seventeen million Americans counting carbs today. (Lankford) The thinking behind these diet regimens is that when a person eats sugars or carbohydrates, their body will produce more insulin. This, they say, will in turn increase the storage of fat and boost appetite. People practicing this diet are encouraged to eat foods that are high in saturated fat and cholesterol such as meat and eggs. They are told to avoid foods high in starches like bread, potatoes, cereals, and most fruits. People who follow this plan stand to lose weight at a very rapid rate. The diet actually makes the body go into ketosis, a type of starvation mode, where fat cells are broken down for energy. As a result the body will shed pounds of water in order to rid itself of the toxic breakdown products. (Lankford) So it is not uncommon for someone to shed twenty, thirty or even fifty pounds in weeks.

While the people are overjoyed to lose their unwanted weight, the companies promoting this diet fail to divulge some of the side effects. Eating foods high in fat and protein, while avoiding foods like fruit can be harmful to one’s health. The diet companies want the consumer to think that carbohydrates are bad and promote weight gain. However complex carbohydrates found in most of the forbidden foods are an essential source of energy for the body. Also foods high in protein are usually high in saturated fat which can lead to a rise in cholesterol levels. According to the American Heart association, heart disease, diabetes, stroke and even some forms of cancer are all possible negative side effects of the high protein diet. The low carb, high protein diet has been known to cause dehydration, headaches, bad breath, nausea, and weakness. (Current Health) In addition to adults who follow this diet, more and more teenagers are getting into the diet trend. According to Carolyn Bell, L.D.N., R.D., “Teens who follow a low-carbohydrate, high protein diet, may not get all the nutrients they need to grow.” She also states that these dieting teens are at a higher risk for heart disease, high cholesterol, kidney stones, and osteoporosis. Also according to Ms. Bell these kids have a harder time with long term weight control. (Current Health)

The next diet trend is a low-calorie diet, otherwise known as fasting or skipping meals. Many dieters will limit their food choices, and eat foods that are said to burn fat, such as grapefruit, celery, and cabbage soup. (Current Health)This diet will allow the dieter to cleanse the body of toxins. When a person drastically cuts their caloric intake, they will automatically lose weight. This type of diet is typically popular with women and teens. Many of these people following this discipline will skip one or even two meals a day. Some will go as far as to cut their caloric intake down to as low as five hundred calories per day. This unhealthy diet plan does produce quick results as well.

Just like the low carbohydrate diet, there are dangers and side effects associated with an extremely low-calorie diet. Many people do not realize that quick weight loss does not mean loss of fat, however it is the muscle mass of the person which is shed first. Diane Noack, M.S., R.D., creator of N.E.W. LIFE, a wellness program, says that skipping meals robs your body of phytochemicals, which are plant chemicals such as, vitamins A, C, and E that help the body fight disease. As well as selenium, found in fruits and vegetables, that helps protect cells from damage. (Current Health) In addition, very low calorie diets will slow down the metabolism, leading to long term weight management issues. When the body doesn’t receive enough nutrients, it will go into an emergency mode, and store fat, because it does not know when it will get nutrients again. This diet is typically hard to stick with for the dieter because of the lack of energy, and the hunger that arises from starving the body. (Lankford)

Other less common quick fix fad diets are the liquid diets. These can either come over-the-counter or via prescription. However these typically should be used under the supervision of a physician. These diets are typically a last resort for extremely obese patients. The liquid diet would never last as a long term weight management strategy. Teens especially should avoid this diet as it lacks essential growth nutrients, which could lead to health issues as they grow older. Finally, as stated before, the liquid diet is not a long term plan. It fails to teach healthy eating habits essential for long term weight control.

Another and probably the most dangerous of the diet trends are the diet pills. Diet pills should only be taken under doctor supervision. While rapid weight loss may come at first, many have addictive qualities along with harmful side effects such as gas, bloating, and an oily discharge from the bowels. (Current Health) Many people try to use over-the-counter laxatives to flush out their systems and rid their bodies of toxins. While in principle this sounds good, and users will see results initially, overuse of these drugs can lead to



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