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Fad Diets

Do diet fads actually work?

If you have ever been overweight, you know well the feeling of desperation that can come over you when you're trying to lose that last 10 pounds or when you're looking at yourself in the mirror, hoping that there's a way to drop all the weight that you see on your body. Even people who are not seriously overweight may want to lose weight fast and with little effort. That's why the fad diet was born. However, unlike healthy diets that can help you lose and keep off any unwanted weight, fad diets are unhealthy ways to lose weight and can even cause more problems in the future.

What is a fad diet?

The typical definition of fad diets is simple—they are diets that grow quickly in popularity and then decline just as quickly once people realize that they don't actually work to keep that stubborn weight off.

One currently popular fad diet is the hCG diet. This weight-loss plan combines a very restricted calorie intake with several types of nutritional supplements. The key to this program, however, is human chorionic gonandotropin, or hCG, a hormone produced during pregancy. Some researchers believe that daily hCG injections speed up the metabolism, boosting weight loss.

Some popular diet fads in the past have included:

  • Atkins diet: This diet, created in the early 1970s by Dr. Richard Atkins, helped its followers lose weight quickly. However, people who followed this diet often had high cholesterol and an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Apple cider vinegar diet: Followers of this liquid diet believed that if they took 1 to 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before eating meals, this "nutritional storehouse" would help their body burn fat and take in more nutrients from their food. Sadly, apple cider vinegar does absolutely nothing for the body nutrient-wise, and it certainly does not help you lose weight.
  • Ice cream diet: While ice cream does carry nutrients in the form of dairy, too much of it can actually make you gain weight, not help you lose it.
  • Cookie diet: Created in 1975 by Dr. Sanford Seigal, this diet consists of hunger-controlling cookies that are supposed to reduce weight and provide nutrients to your body. The catch is, you've got to eat at least six a day in order to lose any weight—and when you eat this many, your body is missing out on important nutrients that keep it healthy.
  • Coconut oil diet: Some doctors tout that this highly concentrated saturated fat can help you lose weight. However, the American Heart Association says differently—when you eat too much of this oil, you run the risk of raising your cholesterol significantly, as well as aggravating other conditions such as acne and gallstones.

Indicators of a fad diet include a list of "good" and "bad" foods, promises of a quick fix or quick weight loss, claims that sound too good to be true, recommendations that are simplistic and based on complicated studies without further review, diets that eliminate one or more of the five food groups, and dramatic statements that cannot be backed up by any scientific evidence.

Whether you try a fad diet is up to you, but any diet should be run past your doctor first. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.