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Fad Diets and Their Dangers for Mental Health


Because the epidemic of obesity in the USA has not been eliminated, the debates about developing healthy and effective diets still occur. Fad diets have emerged as a miraculous tool for quick and easy weight loss. There are lists of various fad diets, and the most famous ones are the diet with high protein concentration, Dukan diet, Atkins diet, and the vegan diet (da Silva et al., 2014; Nouvenne et al., 2014). Most of these diets ban specific types of foods and make users focus on short-term changes in their weight, disregarding the importance of sustainable and long-term improvement in their health. They provide specific rules to follow to achieve weight loss, and are often underresearched or cite dubious studies as proof of their effectiveness. Moreover, fad diets rarely support healthy interventions and changes in lifestyle; instead, they guide users towards short-term effects that often result in problems with metabolism. Even though many overweight people see fad diets as a means of losing weight, they cannot produce a long-term effect nor can they improve personal health.

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Fad diets are hard to stick to because of their restrictive rules (Crowe, 2014). Fad diets often do not warn users what effects and complications they can cause. As Crowe (2014) points out, weight loss is indeed possible during such a diet but only due to loss of water and carbohydrate stores. Eventually, the weight returns because people choose to return to their usual methods of nutrition again. Fad diets are often associated with neglecting important foods, which leads to nausea, fatigue, low mineral, and vitamin intake (Crowe, 2014). Another study also points out that diets with high protein concentration can result in “the development of osteoporosis, especially among adult women” (da Silva et al., 2014, p. 141).

Dangers of Fad Diets

The first fact that should be taken into consideration is the multi-billion industry behind fad diets. People who seek easy ways to lose weight are attracted by the promises of fad diets and spend their money on magic pills and supplements that are often quite expensive (Crowe, 2014). Since most of these diets are hard to follow because of their restrictions, new foods are introduced to the market, and more money is spent on them. Users of such diets often do not take into account that these methods were not tested extensively, that they are dangerous, and do not correspond with healthy interventions that are proven effective.

As one of the researcher’s notices, at best, fad diets lead to “weakness, fatigue, dehydration, constipation, nausea, etc.” (Crowe, 2014, p. 18). The author also pays attention to detox diets that promise obese persons dramatic weight loss and increased energy due to decreased rates of toxins caused by these diets (Crowe, 2014). According to the Association of UK Dieticians (2014), fad diets usually promise “magic” solutions to solve issues with weight without the need in changing one’s lifestyle or recommend specific foods (like grapefruits) that supposedly have fat-burning effects. However, our body is capable of eliminating toxins without any support from such diets. At the same time, detox diets can lead to a lack of energy, stomach upsets, use of supplements with unknown effects, and tiredness (Crowe, 2014). These consequences are serious enough, but there are even worse complications.

It is important to review protein diets as well as their benefits and disadvantages. Those who recommend protein diets stress that users will feel more energy due to the consumption of proteins, but, at the same time, will also lose weight. Nevertheless, no scientific support for such claims was found; it is unlikely that these diets are healthy for bone health (da Silva et al., 2014). Excessive dietary protein can adversely influence bones if calcium intake is also lowered, which is standard for restrictive diets (da Silva et al., 2014). The authors also point out that “the “protein diet” promotes significant changes in the femur and in the concentration of hormones related to the formation and maintenance of this tissue”, which can lead to the development of osteopenia in adult women in the premenopause and menopause (da Silva et al., 2014, p. 145).

Another study found that fad diets have a different impact on kidney stone formation, which should be considered by physicians and nutritionists (Nouvenne et al., 2014). In fact, “high-protein diet, low-carbohydrate diet, and vegan diet” were proved to raise lithogenic risk (Nouvenne et al., 2014, p. 312). When it comes to the benefits of regular consumption of protein, Nouvenne et al. (2014) point out that a balanced diet with low animal protein and normal milk consumption can prevent kidney stone formation. As can be seen from the research, diets are not as effective as healthy lifestyle interventions and careful approach towards nutrition. Crowe (2014) suggests the following: being physically active (60 min./day)., always eating breakfast, decreasing foot portion size, and avoiding sweets and fast food. Behavioral interventions are also possible because they can help obese people cope with the psychological difficulties that durable attempts of weight loss often cause (such as depression, low self-esteem, apathy, etc.).

Diet and Mental Health

As a healthy diet comes hand-in-hand with a healthy mind, psychological interventions and therapy are obligatory for those patients who suffer from any type of eating disorder. Eating disorders can seriously interfere with a successful weight loss and are damaging to the individual’s health. If the negative causes of fad diets are addressed correctly, the chance that obese individuals will choose healthy interventions increases. According to the study conducted by O’Neil et al. (2014), there is a relationship between the quality of dietary patterns and the stability of one’s mental health, especially in the early years of an individual’s development. Since people can start experiencing anxiety and other mood disorders at six years, there is a high need for health care professionals to research the impact of mental health and diet choices on an individual’s overall health outcomes. The adolescent brain is also very susceptible to inaccurate self-perception of the body image, which is another challenge with regards to developing a healthy diet life choice that would not interfere with the overall wellbeing. Since eating disorders form a type of psychiatric dysfunctions that significantly limit an individual’s quality of life, the healthcare team must increase attention to the mental health needs of patients that are struggling with extra weight.

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Fad diets are predominantly tempting for the public since they promise a quick solution to the long-term problems of extra weight. Although fad diets have been first choices for overweight and even obese individuals, it has been found that they lack effectiveness regarding long-term outcomes and hurt overall health. Because all kinds of fad diets (vegan, Atkins diet, and others) require people to limit their consumption of a specific product, there is a danger of the diet’s user causing some health issues associated with the lack of a valuable component in the organism. The restrictive nature of fad diets causes many individuals to go back to their unhealthy lifestyle due to the absence of a balanced meal plan that would fulfill hunger and provide the organism with vital resources. Despite the availability of a wide variety of fad diets, making healthy life choices requires changes in lifestyle for the achievement of long-term effects, which goes against what fad diets usually promise.


Association of UK Dieticians. (2014). Fad diets. Web.

Crowe, T. (2014). Are fad diets worth their weight? Australasian Science, 35(1), 18-19.

da Silva, Z. N., de Jesuz, V. A., Castro, E. D. S., da Costa, C. A. S., Boaventura, G. T., & de Azeredo, V. B. (2014). Effect of “protein diet” and bone tissue. Nutr. Hosp, 29(1), 140-145.

Nouvenne, A., Ticinesi, A., Morelli, I., Guida, L., Borghi, L., & Meschi, T. (2014). Fad diets and their effect on urinary stone formation. Translational Andrology and Urology, 3(3), 303-312.

O’Neil, A., Quirk, S., Housden, S., Brennan, S., Williams, L., Pasco, J.,… Jacka, F. (2014). Relationship between diet and mental health in children and adolescents: A systematic review. American Journal of Public Health, 104(10), 31-42.

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