Health & Wellbeing

Comparing Diets: Myths and Facts about Popular Diets

After the indulgence of the holidays, it is natural that people are keen to get fit and lose a bit of weight but they are looking for fast results and are too quick to give up. Many popular 'fad' diets are not sustainable and can actually be detrimental to health. promotes sensible and practical nutrition advice and a healthy, consistent attitude to exercise, which has many benefits and improves lifestyle permanently. Lucy McCrickard, looks at the top five popular 'fad' diets, as listed below, and explains the theory and reality behind them:


Theory: In our metabolism, carbohydrates break down to glucose, which, when present in excess, we store as fat. By restricting carbohydrate intake, the body turns to its own stored fat supplies to release energy. Protein-rich diets are satiating leaving the dieter feeling full.

Reality: Carbohydrates are an essential source of energy and fibre, so radical restriction can be problematic. Once glucose stores are spent, the body turns to alternative energy supplies such as protein stores, which can create acidity in the body, leaching calcium to neutralise the acidity, potentially affecting bone density. Versions of these diets which also encourage high saturated fat intake, mainly through animal protein, can promote cardiovascular damage. Low fibre intake is also detrimental to the digestive system.

Conclusion: These diets have shown some quick success, but need to be moderated to include some slow releasing carbohydrates providing fibre, energy and an alkaline environment, plus a good range of vitamins and minerals essential for basic health.


Theory: Fat makes you fat!

Reality: Essential fats are a vital component of our diet, vital for hormone production, brain health, vitamin storage and immunity, so cutting out or severely restricting all fats, should be avoided. Saturated and Trans fats (in red meat, processed foods) should be restricted but beware 'low fat' foods - which often add sugar to improve the flavour.

Conclusion: Avoid any diet which recommends leaving out a whole food group. Each one plays an important role in our metabolism and health.


Theory: Providing calorie restricted, nutrient balanced meal replacement drinks for some (or all) meals during the day.

Reality: An effective way of controlling calorie intake and losing weight quickly, but potentially expensive and risks being monotonous. The key issue here is long term maintenance. Dieters develop an unhealthy relationship with 'real' meals and can struggle to maintain a normal eating plan in the long term.

Conclusion: Meal replacement drinks will not provide a long term solution and could lead to obsessive eating and weight gain.


Theory: Eating foods in their raw state helps retain their health-promoting enzymes and nutrient potential; improving energy, detoxification and 'bad' cholesterol levels.

Reality: Raw foods undoubtedly have some health advantages by encouraging fruit, fibre and vegetable intake, but they can be hard to digest if the gut is not working optimally. Some nutrients, however, need cooking to make them bio-available, and an entirely raw food regime risks a deficiency in Vitamin B12 (found in meat, dairy and fish) which should then be supplemented.

Conclusion: A healthy compromise would be to adopt a semi-raw plan but include some cooked lean protein.


Theory: Eating the way our ancestors did to match our evolutionary roots and help manage blood sugar levels and satiety. Restrictions include grains, refined sugars and processed meals and meats, whilst concentrating on food sources which can be grown and picked, or caught.

Reality: Blood sugar stability can help burn stored fat supplies for energy, encouraging weight loss; and the foods are essentially healthy choices. However, this is hard to follow 'on the go' as part of a busy lifestyle; choice can be limited and expensive.

Conclusion: Eliminating foods which have evolved since the agricultural revolution does reduce intake of many unhealthy refined foods, however this can be hard for vegetarians to follow and they could risk protein and essential fat depletion.


The most sensible way to manage weight is to change eating behaviour to eat a well-balanced, portion-controlled diet, including all the essential food groups and nutrients. When followed alongside a regular exercise programme, this should encourage steady weight loss which is sustainable for the long term.

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