Fab or Fad diets?


Photo by Brooke Couper

Think before starting a juice cleanse.

Brooke Couper, Reporter

Fad diets are trendy weight loss plans that promise extreme results. These diets guarantee results like amazing health benefits, disease cures or weight loss. However there is normally little, or no scientific evidence to back up these claims.

Accredited practising dietician Catherine Properzi said, fad diets can be hard to maintain.

“They are often difficult to sustain long-term, as they are based on short-term extreme behaviour change, without addressing long-term and habitual behaviour change.”

Fad diets gain a following, due to results seen on a scale, as we live in a generation obsessed with numbers.

Properzi said, “If the numbers on the scales reduce really, really quickly, it’s unlikely you’re achieving just fat loss. We know that repeated fad diets, lead to increased body weight in the long term.”

Juice diets are a classic fad diet. Most versions of the quick fix cleanse promise weight loss and clear skin. They also claim to detox the liver and improve mood. However, from personal experience, the juice cleanse I tried, had me desperate for food and deprived of essential nutrients, to prevent nausea and migraines.

Properzi said that the benefits claimed by juice diets are not supported by science. Vitamins and minerals in fruit and vegetables are great, however consuming them in amounts higher than your body needs, doesn’t benefit us. Most of the time bodies tend to increase the amount they excrete.

Juice diets also tend to be low in important minerals, like calcium and iron.

Properzi said, the diets are also missing important nutrients like protein.

“Your body needs regular intake of protein, not just for muscles, but to make essential proteins that every cell in your body needs to function. When your body doesn’t have protein from your diet, it will break down muscle to supply these needs.”

Juice diets are also low in fiber. The longer you are on a juice diet, the more chance you have of fiber-loving bacteria in your gut becoming affected. A lack of fiber can lead to constipation.

“Juice diets concentrate the sugars in fruit and vegetables, allowing you to consume more of them really quickly.

“You can end up drinking a lot more calories/kilojoules than you think, and you may gain body fat, while you’re losing muscle protein,” Properzi explained.

The results from these juice diets can lead to bloating and changes in bowel frequency, due to the large amount of fermentable carbohydrates within the cleanse.

After a juice cleanse, the results visible on the scales may be lighter. However, it doesn’t always mean body fat has been lost.

Properzi said, “You may have muscle losses too and as a result you’ll burn fewer calories. If you really want the benefits of all the fruit and vegetables, there are some really delicious ways to enjoy them.”

Intermittent fasting diets involve not eating or severely restricting food intake, for certain hours of a day or certain days of the week. There are different patterns for each diet.

An example of intermittent fasting is the 5:2 approach. This diet advocates normal caloric intake on five out of seven days in the week, and two days where calories are limited, to less than 25% of your normal intake.

Another example, is an approach which uses intermittent fasting every day, where people can only eat within a certain number of hours each day. Food intake might be limited to eight consecutive hours each day, with 16 hours where you can’t eat or drink anything other than water, coffee or unsweetened black tea.

Properzi said, intermittent fasting is like most things, when it comes to the impact on our bodies. This depends on how it’s implemented and who you are.

“If you’re healthy and your diet is pretty balanced and you eat a good range of foods and nutrients every day, then the fasting days will probably not have a negative impact.

“Human bodies can deal quite well with a day or two of limited intake as long as we stay hydrated and don’t try to do too much strenuous activity during the fasting days, so no marathons until you’ve refueled.”

However, if you do have health conditions, it can mean that your body has a greater need for nutrient requirements and cutting down the opportunities to receive them from food could lead to negative consequences.

Another negative impact of intermittent fasting, can be an unhealthy relationship with food.

“The intermittent fasting becomes a binge-fast cycle, instead of a normal eating-fasting cycle. You start to think that because you fast on some days, that you can just go crazy on the other days. The hunger associated with the fasting days can compound this,” said Properzi.

Instead she recommended that the best diet to follow is one that is personalised for you, your lifestyle and your nutritional requirements.

Properzi said: “The best diet should allow you to still socialise and have healthy interactions around food. Sometimes it can be as simple as adjusting portion sizes or reducing portions of some foods and increasing the size of others.”

We need to remember one size does not fit all, and it can take as long to lose weight as it took to gain it, if you want a long-lasting change.