Let’s Talk Food: Fad diets

Iknow some people who went on the latest fad diet and lost weight.

Are you thinking about going on one because your friend lost 10 pounds on one? Here are some interesting pros and cons before you get started.


Atkins diet

The Atkins diet was very popular several years ago. Created by Robert Atkins, the diet called for carbohydrate restriction as the essential ingredient to weight loss. I had some friends who truly believed in it, and I watched them eat as much bacon as they wanted, mostly in excess, only to end up with heart problems. Evidence showed that weight loss of 0.1% to 2.9%, with the initial weight loss being because of water loss. Needless to say, this fad diet lost its popularity after some health problems came up.

Ketogenics diet

Similar to the Atkins diet, ketogenics is based on the premise that drastically reducing carbohydrates and replacing them with fats puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis.

When this happens, your body becomes incredibly efficient at burning fat for energy and it turns fat into ketones in the liver, which can supply energy for the brain. For the short term, there is less insulin resistance and lower blood triglyceride numbers.

Because this fat-first diet is pretty restrictive, in the long term the restriction of a lot of the nutrient-rich foods such as beans, berries, whole grains, carrots and peas could run your risk of dietary fiber and micronutrient deficiencies. Giving up processed foods is a good thing, but eating more cheese, steak, butter, lard and bacon brings up your saturated fat levels, which could be a concern for your heart.

According to Cuisine magazine, “A 2018 study in the journal Lancet found that people on a low-carb diet, where calories from carbs were replaced with animal fat and animal protein, raised their risk of early death.

There is a ‘keto flu’ which could cause fatigue, nausea and brain fog, which may occur during the first few weeks on the diet when the body is adjusting to the new diet.

It could also make exercise very difficult with a lack of carbohydrate energy stores. Too much protein can throw you out of ketosis, but it can also make it harder to put on lean body mass.”

When on a keto diet, be sensible and do not eat the same foods. Eat a variety so you will not have nutritional deficiencies.

A fiber supplement might be something to think about to keep your bowels and microbiome in working order.

If you plan to continue the keto diet long-term, it might be wise to do the diet for a few days a week or a couple of weeks each month and then have some days with carbohydrates.


The paleo diet is based on the types of foods presumed to have been eaten by early humans. The thought behind this fad diet is that humans have been around thousands of years, but only since fast foods have we developed so many health issues. So eating only what our great-grandparents ate is better for us. Foods that are allowed on a paleo diet are meat such as beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, pork; fish and seafood; free-range, pastured or omega-3 enriched eggs; vegetables such as broccoli, kale, peppers, onions, carrots, tomatoes, etc.

Processed foods, refined grains and added sugars are not allowed, which could protect you from illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.

But eliminating dairy, grains and legumes can leave you short on certain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Additionally, it can become very expensive to follow this diet with grass-fed meat, wild seafood and organic vegetables.


The Whole30 program is an extreme 30-day fad diet emphasizing whole foods with no sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, soy and dairy. It’s similar to the paleo diet but more restrictive, as no natural sweeteners such as honey or maple syrup are allowed.

For some who went on this diet, it brought out food allergies and intolerances, and discovering what foods cause bloating. Another plus to this diet is it sometimes makes you kick the need for sugar.

This diet, however, involves lots of planning and, with few options, can be boring. If going out for a meal or traveling, keeping on track could be a challenge.

In addition, some side effects include fatigue and cravings. After the 30 days, there might be a tendency to gorge on those foods you weren’t able to eat. Here again, the lack of items such as grains and legumes might result in vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

Bottom line

Before you decide to go on a fad diet, think about the pros and cons. Is it worth the pounds lost to end up with heart disease? Or after all that effort, will you gain all the weight back because after the diet, you go back to unhealthy eating?

I advocate practicing eating healthy most of the time and occasionally falling off the wagon. Eating in moderation and not being a pain to my family and friends also is important. Ask any dietitian, if you reduce your caloric intake and do some form of exercise or keep moving, you will lose weight naturally.

That is the simplest explanation of how the body works.

I am not a very happy camper when we invite someone over for the dinner and they are on one of these fad diets and cannot eat what I am serving.

It would be a good bet they will not get invited again!

• Correction to last week’s column

Thank you, Bob Adler, for making a correction to my column last week about microwave ovens.


He wrote, “One minor correction is that microwave ovens for home use were well established by the mid-1960s. The Amana Radar Range was a popular appliance at that time. My parents bought a condo, in Pasadena, in the late 1960s that had a built in Amana unit as part of the appliances in the kitchen. The Radar Range was also available in a countertop version.”

Email Audrey Wilson at audreywilson808@gmail.com.

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