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Mad, Bad, Fad Diets

With new year best intentions waning, Queensland Health is reminding people to base their healthier choices on science and steer clear of fad diets.

Fad diets are diets that make claims of weight loss or positive health effects without solid scientific evidence.

There have been some crackers: The Avoid Swamps Diet - courtesy of writer Thomas Short in 1727, who decided that overweight people tended to live near swamps.

Or the Cotton Ball Diet, where you wash down some cotton balls to make you feel full—doubly dangerous because of potentially harmful chemicals in cotton balls, and the possibility of intestinal blockages.

"While people might laugh at those ideas now, it can still be overwhelming to sort out fact from fiction, given the number of new diets that emerge every year," said Queensland Health Nutritionist Mathew Dick.

"While there are popular diets that can be effective and are healthy, like the Mediterranean diet, others—for example the grapefruit diet or the tapeworm diet—can be counterproductive, or even damaging to your health.

"Just when you finally think you understand how you should eat to stay healthy, and in a healthy weight range, along comes the next big thing in fad diets. So how do you decide?

"The first thing to look at is where is the information coming from. Is it from an authoritative source – government or a dietitian? Or is it coming from someone with no training in nutrition or health, or with personal interests?

"Secondly, is it being sold to you based on scientific evidence? Or, is the marketing mainly anecdotal or testimonial in nature?

"Thirdly, does it contradict widely accepted nutritional or health guidelines? If governments and major health bodies around the country and the world are saying one thing, and the new diet says something very different, then you should be cautious.

"Fourthly, does it ask you to cut out a whole group or groups of food? Or, only to eat a particular food or food group?

"Lastly, is it promoted as being 'quick and easy' and does it promise unrealistic outcomes, such a losing a huge amount of weight in a week or two? It takes time to put on weight. It also takes time to lose it.

“If you want to eat healthier or lose weight there are many resources available where you can get recipes and eating plans that are based on science.

“Queensland Health’s Healthier. Happier. website is a good place to start.

“The food and fitness guides, that are backed by science and research, encourage small changes to help all Queenslanders become healthier.”


Media contact:          3708 5376

Last updated: 11 January 2019