Fad Diets and their Repercussions!

By Dr Purwa Duggal, Head of Nutrition, Fortis Hospital, Mulund

These days there are numerous diets that promise instant or easy weight loss. One should however exercise caution while following such diets as its impact may vary from person to person, not leading to the expected outcome. These diets may provide drastic results, but it will always be short term. People following such diets range from teens to elderlies. Dr Purwa Duggal, Head of Nutrition, Fortis Hospital, Mulund, talks about a few of these fad diets and their impact.


ATKINS DIET: Is a low carbohydrate diet program. It is based on the core principles of regulating the overall Caloric and Carbohydrate intake, rather than the Fat intake alone to aid weight loss.  It propagates intake of high amounts of Protein while limiting the intake of Carbohydrates. The suitability of western diets to the Indian scenario can be questionable.

Atkin’s prescription of a high-Protein, high-Fat and low-Carbohydrate diets may pose serious long-term health risks such as, Heart disease, impaired Kidney function, Diabetes and even Osteoporosis due to increased calcium loss.

RAW FOOD DIET: Refers to the diet comprising of unprocessed foods that may be eaten raw or uncooked and contains active enzymes. The main components of a raw food diet include, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, sprouted grains, beans, legumes and seaweed. Several food theorists believe that essential nutrients are destroyed when some foods are cooked, and hence they must be consumed in their original form to retain all the nutrients that they have to offer. While the raw food diet does increase energy, promote weight loss and lowers incidence of disease such as Diabetes, Cancer, Cardiovascular ailments; the long term benefits are questionable. Not everyone may be able to tolerate the raw foods. Adherence to very strict dietary regime may further aggravate problems by inducing Calcium, Iron and Protein, Calories and B12 deficiencies.

GM DIET: Originally planned for the General Motor employees, this diet is based on the principle that by eating only the foods in the eating plan, the body will burn more calories than food otherwise provides. It is a 7 day meal plan with only select foods to be consumed each day, with inclusion of 10 glasses of water and total abstinence from alcohol.

The problem with this kind of plan is the body holds back the fat reserve and burns muscle for energy that is required for daily activity. The initial rapid weight loss is mostly water loss. Once, the person goes back to eating normally, there is a rebound; person gains back all the lost weight. Following this diet repeatedly can deplete the body of energy and some important nutrients.

BLOOD TYPE DIET: This diet is based on the principle that what you eat reacts chemically with your blood type. If you follow a diet designed for your blood type, your body will digest food more efficiently. You’ll lose weight, have more energy and help prevent disease. Each blood type will have has its own unique diet and exercise prescription, including recommended foods, and foods/food groups to avoid.

The limitation is that it may cause serious nutrient deficiencies since foods will be restricted for each blood type. Not consuming meat may cause Mineral and Protein deficiencies, but eating too much meat (in place of healthy fruits, vegetables and whole grains) can increase your risk of developing certain types of Cancer and Heart disease. Ex: Dairy products are to be abstained from by blood types this A, increasing the risk for developing a Calcium deficiency, leading to osteoporosis.

DUKANS DIET: Is based around eating high-Protein foods while severely limiting all Carbohydrates including fruits, starchy vegetables, legumes and whole grains. Low-fat, Protein-rich sources such as fish, poultry and reduced-fat dairy products are recommended. The diet is implemented in a phased manner (a 4 phase plan). This diet does provide a quick jumpstart for people with sluggish metabolism. It allows people to eat unlimited amounts of specific foods. However, the flip side is as follows:

  • Focus is on high-Protein. Indians may find it difficult since our daily intake of Protein compared to the western countries is low.
  • Restrictions of certain food groups cause lack of essential Vitamins and Minerals
  • All may not adapt well to low-carbohydrate diet since it may cause mood swings and fatigue
  • It cannot be recommended for patients with Kidney problems, high Cholesterol and Gout disease

SOUTH BEACH DIET: Is low in Carbohydrates high in Protein and healthy Fats. This diet aims at making food and lifestyle changes. Major risk from this diet is Ketosis in case of severe carb restriction resulting in symptoms such as nausea, headache, mental fatigue and bad breath; sometimes dehydration and dizziness.

Crash dieting by oneself is dangerous for any age group. Type of diet or combination diet to be followed will vary depending on one’s health makeup. Weight loss under professional guidance is recommended.

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