Fad Diets: True Miracles or False Advertising?


Published: 2024-02-29

Most people have heard of fad diets, or “trending diets,” some might even have tried a few of them. But are they as great miracles as they say they are? Today I will examine them a bit more and go into why they are so popular and what the biggest pros and cons of them are.

What Are Fad Diets?

Fad diets are considered a “fad” as they usually get a lot of attention in the media and many people tend to jump on board, hoping for quick results by following the latest trend. It is not a scientific term. As fads come and go in fashion, so do diets. A fad diet is (supposedly) a quick solution to a problem, most commonly weight loss. Several of them do help people lose weight, often quickly and often with a significant drop in weight. However, there are several issues with this, which I will go further into depth with in this post.

Liquid and Detox Diets

There are many different fad diets, one example being liquid diets. There are many different types of liquid diets, but the main idea is that you don’t eat any solid food for a certain number of hours or days. A common example is a “juice cleanse” that suggests that you will clean out your insides by not eating anything solid. Other examples include soups and meal-replacement diets. These can cause a few problems. First, most liquid diets don’t have enough (if any) protein in them. They also are extremely low in calories, which will put you at an extreme deficit. The low calories also mean that there is a deficit in macro and micronutrients which can cause fatigue, dizziness, hair loss, heart damage, and more. A very calorie-restrictive diet will also slow down your metabolism to preserve energy so when you stop, it is highly likely that you will gain your weight back.

Most liquid diets or detox diets are said to detox and flush toxins out of your system, however, there is no scientific evidence that proves this, particularly because these diets don’t explain what would make you “flush out toxins”. Simply consuming fewer calories does not detox you. Your kidneys and liver are the organs that remove toxins from your body, as well as sweat, and sebum. Eating healthy, including enough calories and balanced food, will help “flush out toxins” more than starving yourself on liquid diets.

Restriction Diets

Another big fad diet or category of fad diets is restriction diets where many foods or whole food groups are getting eliminated from the diet. This includes but is not limited to diets where you give up on all sugar, all carbs, all fat, diets where you eat extremely restricted for a few weeks, etc. Some diets restrict a whole list of things to avoid. While cutting out alcohol from your diet can have great outcomes for your health, cutting out a whole food group will leave you depleted in certain nutrients. For similar reasons to liquid diets, the restriction in calories can cause several negative consequences.

Fasting, in different ways, is also considered a fad diet. As with liquid diets and restrictive diets, doing a complete fast where you don’t eat at all will initially make you lose weight due to not taking in any calories, but as reviewed above, will lead to consequences if stayed on for too long. Furthermore, such a restriction will more often than not have you gain the weight back once you get off it. Intermittent fasting, a less aggressive way of fasting, can be done in many ways. It could be alternating days when you fast or a restricted time during 24 hours when you are allowed to eat. Little to no data is found on the long-term effects of intermittent fasting, although some short-term success has been found. It is worth noting that simply restricting when you eat will not make you lose weight unless you are eating fewer calories than you burn.

Skipping meals to lose weight also is not the best strategy as it will lead to more hunger at the next meal and you will likely binge instead, causing too many calories to be processed at the same time and a higher storage of fat, and/or you will end up consuming more calories than if you had just had both meals.

Another popular form of a restriction diet is going “gluten-free”. If you actually have celiac disease (you cannot eat gluten without negative consequences), then you should absolutely avoid gluten, however, going gluten-free does not mean you are going to lose weight. There is no scientific evidence for a gluten-free diet to work. Reducing processed carbs and cutting down on calories will help you lose weight, but if you are picking gluten-free just because you think that will make you lose weight, you should know that some gluten-free food might be more processed and higher in calories than actual food with gluten in it (as is food labeled as fat-free or non-fat). Gluten-free foods might also have fewer nutrients in them, so if you do have to be on a gluten-free diet, pay attention to the nutrition labels. Generally, eating gluten-free options are also more expensive.

The Keto diet is a well-known restrictive diet as well. The main idea behind any Keto diet (there are some variations) is to limit carbs, which causes the body to go into ketosis and burn fat, rather than burning glucose (stored carbs). This diet has some positive outcomes if you stay on it for a shorter period, or if you are a serious athlete. It has also had results showing that it is helpful for epileptic patients (which the diet was originally designed for) and other neurological illnesses. However, as with all other diets, losing weight too quickly can have negative side effects such as muscle loss, fatigue, electrolyte imbalance, etc. Further, there are several short-term side effects from a Keto diet, such as gastrointestinal discomfort, fatigue, fainting, dizziness, etc. Studies also show that spending a longer time (30-40 days) on a Keto diet can cause lower LDL (good cholesterol), lower bone mineral density, and increase the amount of kidney stones.

Pills and Injections

Diet pills are another quick-fix diet included in the category of fad diets. Diet pills, in different forms, help “burn fat” or “drop weight” at a high speed. Some of these pills, like several other fad diets, do help people lose weight quickly. Many of these pills or supplements are not regulated and the FDA warns about taking them as you cannot know that the nutrition label tells the truth of what is in the product. They can cause dizziness, fatigue, kidney damage, dehydration, and weakness. Some appetite suppressant supplements can also cause heart problems.

Ozempic has become an increasingly popular way to lose weight. The injection, a medicine designed for individuals with diabetes, has been proven to reduce appetite which in turn can cause weight loss. It is not approved for weight loss, but some doctors still prescribe it for weight loss either way. Another drug by the same company, Wegovy, has been approved for weight loss and has an even higher dose of semaglutide, which is the active ingredient in Ozempic that helps with weight loss. However, Wegovy is approved by the FDA as a weight loss drug in combination with exercise and a low-calorie diet. Your body can build up a tolerance if you take these drugs for a longer period of time. There are generic versions of both drugs, however, none of them are approved by the FDA. Another important note is that there has been a shortage of Ozempic due to the high popularity for weight loss which has affected diabetic patients in need of the drug. Unless you made any other lifestyle changes while on either of the drugs, you are more than likely going to gain all the weight back once you get off it. Some long-term side effects have been thyroid cancers, hospitalizations, and pancreatitis, but more studies are needed.

What To Do Instead

Many other diets will fit into this category now and in the future. The best thing you can do is to stop and consider for a second what the effect of a diet has on you. Answer questions like “can I do this in the long run?” or “what would side-effects be from this?”. If it seems too good to be true, it usually is. If you read something that says to create miracles, but without any mentioned consequences, it would probably be wise to do a quick internet search to see if that is actually the truth. In most cases, you don’t need anything more than that to find what is going on.

It is understandable why these fad diets gain popularity. People want fast results and with the less effort, the better. Being able to lose a large amount of weight in a few weeks sounds like an easy feat. To put this into perspective, the CDC recommends no more than 1-2lbs of weight loss per week, while some of these diets have you lose up to (or more) than 10lbs per week. Now, sometimes with a new exercise program and nutrition program, you might lose a bit more than 1-2lbs initially if you have been inactive for a long time or have a more significant amount of weight to lose. However, this is healthy as long as you are eating balanced meals and exercising appropriately.

Another important note is that fad diets are often hard to follow. Some of them have you starve yourself, while others have side effects of nausea or dizziness. A much healthier (and easier) way of losing weight is to do it progressively over time by eating balanced meals in portion sizes appropriate to your body composition. This will take a longer time to lose weight, but will also have a higher chance of lasting. Think “lifestyle change” over “quick-fix weight loss”.

If you have any questions or want tips for good workouts or on what balanced meals might look like, don’t hesitate to reach out:


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Gluten-free diet: Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). Gluten-free diet. Retrieved from

Liquid Diets: WebMD. (n.d.). Liquid Diets. Retrieved from

Ozempic for weight loss: Does it work and what do experts recommend? UC Davis Health. (2023, July). Retrieved from

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The effect of a gluten-free diet on cardiovascular risk factors in patients with coeliac disease: a systematic review: ScienceDirect. (2015, November). The effect of a gluten-free diet on cardiovascular risk factors in patients with coeliac disease: a systematic review. Retrieved from

Do Fad Diets Work?: Redbook. (n.d.). Do Fad Diets Work? Retrieved from

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