Nonsensical dietary advice isn’t just incorrect – it’s downright dangerous! But no matter how much we try, FAD diets will continue to enjoy their five minutes of fame.
This is why it is so important that we learn how to spot a FAD DIET so we don’t end up getting swept up in the hysteria of dietary myths.
HOW CAN YOU SPOT A FAD?
IF YOU ARE TOLD TO CUT OUT AN ENTIRE FOOD GROUP
If the diet being sold to you is telling you that cutting out a whole food group is the key to success, than chances are you’ve stumbled across a FAD. Whether it be gluten, sugar, dairy, meat or whatever else has suddenly been deemed “toxic”, FAD diets will usually suggest that common foods are “bad” and should be eliminated.
Part of living a healthy life is having a healthy relationship with food and any diet that promotes restriction and elimination only works to encourage “food phobias”. In scientific literature, the most successful diets which promote better health and longer life are the Nordic, Mediterranean and Japanese diets.
What do these diets have in common?
You guessed it >>>> BALANCE!
They are all low in processed foods, but high in variety…No ONE food group is off-limits! This is the best way you can ensure that your nutrient requirements are met.
IF THE SCIENCE IS BROAD AND INCONCLUSIVE
Never believe these broad proclamations unless you have access to all the details. Where is this scientific data? Who collected the data? How many subjects were there? What did they test for? How long did the study run for? Who are the doctors?? Were they paid to endorse the diet? Do they have actually have a PhD in Dietetics? (seriously, check their qualifications! You’ll be surprised how many do not specialise in Nutrition and Dietetics.)
Recently a German journalist proved how easy it to circulate a diet myths by using “bad” and inconclusive nutritional science. You can read more about the details here. The whole point of this exercise was to reveal how even serious research into weight-loss can be confusing and inconclusive. There is just so much noise that we have to cut through to get to the answers.
This is partly the fault of health news journalists who will churn out new stories quoting the latest “scientific discovery” every other day, often times these are later found to be unreliable single scientific studies. This, however, feeds into the urges of us readers who just can’t get enough of stories about the “benefits of red wine and chocolate” and the “dangers of fructose and gluten”.
The problem with good nutritional science is that it takes time. It is a long, slow accumulation of data taken from a number of different scientific studies. But this just doesn’t appeal to our “instantaneous” culture that we have developed.
IF IT IS BEING SOLD BY A ‘PERSONALITY’ NOT A PROFESSIONAL
The main sources of dietary and health information have changed dramatically in the last decade. What was once the domain of Accredited Dietitians and Physicians, is now dominated by bloggers and celebrities with large followings on Instagram and Twitter. The trouble is that some of the advice from today’s online “wellness coaches” can be unreliable and even dangerous. How do we know what to trust and what we should be taking with a grain of salt?
A recent article in The Guardian chronicled the current state of wellness blogging in an excellent way. Hadley Freeman writes that “instead of qualifications in boring things such as nutrition and science, the wellness guru has a blog and an Instagram account…from these [they] advice thousands, even millions of followers in [a] friendly informal tone to avoid the likes of tropical fruits (too high in sugar) and stock up instead of cold-pressed green juices”.
A large part of the appeal is the “eat like me, look like me” approach which can actually be extremely detrimental and counterintuitive. In a recent study published by the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, appearance-driven diets reduces a persons reliance on satiety cues, meaning that it may “hinder how you listen to your body’s hunger fullness cues and how you adjust your food intake”
So while anecdotal evidence may seem much more appealing and personalised, we must continue to be skeptical about what both wellness bloggers and celebrities are trying to sell us. Remember, what works for one person may not necessarily work for another.
It is always best to get dietary advice from a professional who knows your medical and personal history.
IF IT PROMOTES “RAPID RESULTS” OVER SUSTAINABILITY
It seems as though it is human nature to look for the latest “magic” answer to all our diet and health problems. We want a quick and easy solution. If you are promised quick weight loss ie. “Loose 10kgs in two weeks!” than it is unlikely to be a useful diet for long-term healthy weight loss. This type of clever marketing plays to a culture obsessed with “instant” results.
Experts advise that a healthy rate of weight loss for healthy adults is actually around 0.5 to 1.0kg per week, any faster and you may risk serious damage to your body. Not only is “low-calorie” restrictive dieting unsustainable (cause more weight gain when you stop), it can also lead to nutrient deficiencies which can have serious effects in the long-term.
IF IT IS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE!
Any diet that promises to be a “miracle cure” should rarely be trusted. If it sounds like it’s too good to be true, chances are it is.
We seem to have an obsession with the idea that food itself have medicinal qualities. And while it is perfectly acceptable to say fresh and unprocessed foods may reduce the risk of disease, there is no proof to say that one type of food is “toxic” and will cause disease. A 2013 scientific review titled “Is everything we eat associated with Cancer?”, found that 80 percent of common ingredients had been connected with cancer risk (either positively or negatively) in published articles, highlighting how much of the evidence quoted was regarded to be “weak” and “implausible”.
So before you rid your fridge of any foods said to be “carcinogenic” and stock up with “miracle cure” ingredients, check your facts! Chances are it is neither as bad nor as good as people would like you to think.
REMEMBER: BALANCE AND MODERATION ARE THE KEYS TO GOOD HEALTH BOTH MENTALLY AND PHYSICALLY!
There are plenty of Accredited Practicing Dietitians doing their thing and spreading evidence-based research to their followers.