Do the Latest Fad Diets Work? 2012

4 Extreme Food Fads: Should You Try One?

We are pumped to share one of our favorite stories from Prevention here on FitSugar!

[Courtesy of Men's Health] To a die-hard follower of one of these diets, what they put on their plate is as personal as their political party — and just as controversial. These four food philosophies have small, dedicated, and sometimes fanatical followings. So which are legit? We asked the experts to separate the facts from the fads.

1. Veganism: Vegans nix all animal products, including meat, dairy, gelatin, and eggs.

Is it legit? Research in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that vegans are usually thinner and enjoy a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Why? They generally eat a more wholesome diet, including more fiber, fruits, vegetables, and legumes, and avoid processed meats. But still, meat can be part of a healthy diet. Case in point: in another study in AJCN in 2012, researchers put people on a healthy diet that included up to 5.4 ounces of lean beef a day in lieu of chicken or fish. The results: their cholesterol scores dropped about 10 percent.

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2. Gluten-free: Maybe you suffer from celiac disease, an autoimmune condition where the lining of the intestine is damaged and doesn’t properly absorb nutrients. Or maybe you have nonceliac gluten sensitivity. Not surprisingly, if that’s you, you should avoid gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley). But thanks to celebs like Miley Cyrus, a gluten-free diet is touted as a surefire way to slim down.

Is it legit? Yes, if you have a real problem digesting gluten diagnosed by your doc. (Symptoms can range from gastrointestinal discomfort and bloating to headaches and fatigue.) However, according to a 2012 study in Archives of Internal Medicine, many people with food sensitivities restrict gluten (and other foods) without a proper diagnosis. Then they attribute any improvement in symptoms to going gluten-free, when really it could be a number of different factors. The bottom line: sure, going gluten-free can help you lose weight if you cut back on processed carbs and eat more whole foods. But “merely switching to gluten-free processed products or desserts, which many people do, won’t help you trim down because these contain just as many calories as the regular versions,” says Chicago-area registered dietitian Breea Johnson.

Keep reading for two more fad diets after the break!

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4. Raw Diets: Raw foodists claim that foods (beans, fruits, vegetables, dairy) are most nutritious when eaten raw. You’ll need one thing for sure: lots of free time to peel, chop, and blend all that produce.

Is it legit? A 2005 study in The Journal of Nutrition analyzed health markers in 200 people following a raw food diet for an average of 3.5 years. Overall, a raw diet was associated with low cholesterol and triglycerides but — the bad news — nearly 40 percent of participants were vitamin B12 deficient and nearly half had low “good” HDL cholesterol. Yes, cooking destroys some nutrients (like vitamin C), but it also enhances the concentration of others. Take tomatoes, for example: more lycopene is released when they’re cooked vs. raw. It’s a trade-off, but you’ll get plenty of vitamins and minerals whether consuming that veggie raw or cooked, says Johnson.

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