The selection box of bad diets

Posted: January 24, 2014

Healthy eating, activity and long term behaviour change works best

Have you been thinking New Year, New You?  Dietitians at Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust are encouraging people to be aware of those fad diets that make a comeback appearance every January. 

Rachel Cooke, registered Dietitian for Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association, said: "There are many varied fad diets available and any weight loss that occurs is simply due to the user eating less calories than they were doing previously and not making any lasting changes to everyday eating behavior, no other magic reason.

It may not sound the most exciting way to lose weight but healthy eating, activity and long term behaviour change not only works but helps you maintain weight lost too."

Here are just a few of the fad diets to avoid this new year.

  • Cabbage Soup / Fat Burning Soup Diet

Firstly no food can burn fat; only physical activity can do that. This diet is an old favourite, based on pseudo science. The diet has various versions but involves living on diet that largely consists of homemade cabbage soup, which long term can result in nutritional deficiencies and in most cases users find it a struggle to manage on the cabbage soup and start to dread mealtimes.

  • Detox Diets

Our bodies are quite complex and more than capable of detoxing for us. The liver works to rid the body of everyday toxins so a 'special diet' is not necessary. There are many versions available, and they are often popular with celebrities.  Usually they recommend that participants cut out food groups and live on fruit or vegetables and water.

Obviously following the Christmas feast reducing your intake to just fruit or vegetables will lead to a reduction of calories and weight loss - but this is largely fluid. Long term it can lead to nutritional deficiencies as whole food groups are missed out.

  • Maple Syrup Diet

This became popular when pop star Beyonce lost weight using it. It is based on the Medal Bal natural tree syrup - made up of the sap of the maple tree and the idea is again that it cleanses your body of toxins.  The syrup is mixed with lemonjuice, water and cayenne pepper and the user is supposed to drink in half pints up to nine times per day - this results in way below 600 calories per day.

However, experts state that diets less than 600 calories per day should only be undertaken with medical supervision as they can be dangerous to health. One of the diet plans suggests living of the sugar syrup for ten days which would obviously result in weight loss (including fluid) but also result in the user struggling to cope with daily life.  Long term this would be harmful to health as it contains no protein, fibre, vitamins or minerals.

  • Atkins Diet

This was very popular a few years back - based on high protein and very low carbohydrate intake. The rigid version of the diet means no bread, potatoes, pasta, rice or cereals and only minimal allowance of fruit or veg. It always sounded appealing when you thought you could still eat cheese or bacon for example, until you think what you normally enjoy those protein foods with.bread! The very carbohydrates you're not supposed to be having.

This diet goes against evidenced based healthy eating messages such as, potentially high intakes of saturated fat and virtually none of your five a day which we know can reduce heart disease, stroke and some cancers.

  • Zone Diet

If you want complex and complicated then this is the one for you!  The zone has no room for flexibility and is based around meals being 40 per cent carbohydrate, 30 per cent protein and 30 per cent fats - again going against the Eat Well plate recommendation of 50 per cent carbohydrate, 35 per cent fat and 15 per cent protein.

If you have the time and inclination to work out your food groups and meals so exactly, you can easily take the time to make small long term changes to your intake that will result in a long-term healthy weight loss rather than a quick fix.

  • Warrior Diet

This can also be known as the Hunter or Caveman diet and is based on such times. There are several variations but in general is based on eating one main meal per day between the hours of 5-7pm when the hunters came back with the goods. The remainder of the day includes grazing on foods such as nuts or dried fruits.

We know that eating breakfast and regular meals is key to losing weight and maintaining weight loss long term and even the nuts and dried fruits though high in nutrients are also high in energy calories and can add up.

  • Blood Group Diet

Another diet based on pseudo science - the inventor believed that how each different nutrient is broken down is dependant on the blood type.

  • Blood group A - vegetarian based intake with no dairy products
  • Blood group B - Varied intake
  • Blood group AB - Combination of diets for A and B - so on one hand varied intake and the other a vegetarian diet?
  • Blood group O  the most common blood group -High meat, no dairy or wheat / grains - sound familiar think Atkins

Concerns diets for O and A mean cutting out food groups which can mean deficiencies e.g. decreasing dairy from the diet can mean a risk of a calcium deficiency of followed for long periods.

Useful information

The Nutrition and Dietetics team work in the community and in hospitals to help people make dietary changes to prevent and treat nutrition-related diseases.

Our community dietetics service is provided by two teams, one based in Salisbury and one in Bath and Chippenham.  Our service covers south, north and west Wiltshire and the BANES area.

For more information about the Trust's dietetic service visit

Find out more about the British Dietetic Association (BDA) at

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