Health fads: Helpful or just a hassle?

By: Jennifer Pretty May 06, 2014
  Editorial
Health fads: Helpful or just a hassle?

Health fads have always been around – the Cabbage Soup Diet of the 1980s and 1990s was a particularly prominent one, but it seems that in our digitally-connected age the fads come quicker and thicker than ever before. So, are any of these trends actually beneficial? Read on to find out…

The Raspberry Ketone Diet
A recent addition to weight loss options, raspberry ketones are supposed to be a miracle weight loss supplement, which “slices through fat”. It sounds promising but the science behind it is very shaky, it’s been seen to cause weight loss in rats (by the Nutrition & Functional Food Research Team of Korea) but it has never been tested on humans and there’s nothing to prove that’s it either safe or effective. Most likely it’s a waste of money.

The Paleo Diet
This diet has been associated with various health benefits – cutting out gluten can help people with Chrohn’s disease to regulate their condition. But, as a weight loss tool? Not so effective. Dietician Katherine Tallmadge says “My clients who have gone gluten free are all constipated and nutrient deficient”, which is down to the heavily-processed and nutrition-free nature of gluten-free substitutes. Enjoy things that are naturally gluten-free, like rice and quinoa, but don’t go out of your way to avoid it.

Juicing
Another diet that appeals to those who want to lose weight - juicing is the 21st century version of the cabbage soup. It’s the same kind of ingredients, just blended into a slightly tastier smoothie rather than a lump soup. It does have results, weight loss is relatively rapid, but the weight will go right back on as soon as you start back on solids. As Ronni Litz Julien, (author of The Trans Fat Free Kitchen) says "It's all water weight that you will regain as soon as you start eating again". 

Superfoods
Not a weight loss product, but more marketing aimed at improving the public health based on very little. Various food have been touted as “superfoods” over the last few years or so, including blueberries, acai berries and guarana, but do they actually have the cancer-fighting properties they’re credited with? Well, let’s leave the answer to Cancer Research UK, who say “"you shouldn’t rely on so-called 'superfoods' to reduce the risk of cancer. They cannot substitute for a generally healthy and balanced diet".

The 5:2 Diet
Another diet, which rose to prominence in 2012, and it involves fasting for 2 days every week but eating normally the other two days. It doesn’t advocate total abstinence, but calories are severely limited for fast days – 600 for men and 500 for women. It’s hard to know where to start with the possible pitfalls of this approach – dizziness, headaches, lack of concentration – but the most likely outcome is that dieters stuff themselves on the 5 days before fasting on the 2, which is no way to lose weight. Much better to have more calories per day, in a controlled and healthy way.

The Atkins Diet
One of the most famous diets out there, the Atkins concept has been around since 1972, but only gained popularity in 2002, a year before Atkins’ death. The diet advocates restriction of carbs in favour of protein and vegetables. It works for short-term weight loss, by effectively putting the body into starvation mode, but having such an unbalanced diet has implications for your overall health, especially if you have an underlying kidney problem. Eric Knight of Harvard School of Public Health said: “The potential effects of dietary protein consumption on renal function on persons with mild renal insufficiency have important public health implications given the prevalence of high-protein diets." Beware!

Tapeworm

If this doesn’t make you shudder then maybe you’re crazy enough to try it. Briefly popular around the turn of the century, the tapeworm diet involved consuming a live tapeworm, who would then eat your body fat…as well as some of your internal organs. Tapeworm imports have since been banned in the U.S. but that didn’t stop a woman in Iowa trying it as recently as 2013. It’s hard to think of a more disgusting way to try and lose weight. 

Blood type diet
This is a diet which sounds like it has a sound scientific basis – your blood type determines how you put on weight and which are your “trigger foods”. But, unfortunately, it’s another piece of unsubstantiated hype, and Katherine Tallmadge is again dismissive of it, calling it “highly restricted and complicated” as well as pointing out the lack of science behind it.

E-cigarettes
Stepping away from diet to end with, it’s the health trend that everyone in 2014 is going crazy for, e-cigarettes, to help quit smoking. Do they really help though? There’s no evidence to suggest that they do, and their safety is also under question. Don’t get too excited about them just yet…


Until next time,

Peace, love and vitamin C!


Jennifer Pretty began her career as the director of artist development for a well-known Canadian music label. Branching out on her own, she then started her own PR business “Pretty Media Management” planning and hosting various charity, entertainment and fashion events. As a dance and fitness class enthusiast Jennifer is a firm believer in the benefits of a healthy, active lifestyle. She also loves to cook, travel, spend time with family and friends and most importantly living life to the fullest!