Debunking Diet Fads and Gimmicks

Have you ever wondered how to make sense of all the nutrition and diet information that we hear from friends, family, co-workers and in the media? It is important to first look out for red flags indicating ineffective, even harmful information when evaluating diet and nutrition advice. They include:

  • Foods or advice that tout “miracle” fat loss or weight-loss qualities
  • Odd amounts of foods or stringent food combining
  • Emphasizing one food or one type of food
  • Quick weight loss
  • Must buy food or product to be successful
  • Minimal or no emphasis on physical activity

Next, ask questions about health and diet programs to assess the safety and effectiveness. Questions to ask include:

What are the approaches and goals of the program?
What are the health risks?
Is a medical checkup from your physician recommended?
Does the program include practical nutrition education and physical activity information to follow for a lifetime?
Is there proof of effectiveness other than personal testimonies?
Ask for 2-5 years worth of successful customer results. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) insists that weight loss companies back up their claims.
What are all the fees including membership, food, counseling, etc? Will health insurance cover any of the costs? Are there any refunds?
What is the follow-up for individuals? Are there any modifications based on individual needs? Does this cost extra?
What are the credentials and experience of the people giving the advice and education? These details should be readily available.
Additionally, products and strategies promoted for weight loss such as patches, stimulators, spirulina (blue green algae), fat and starch blockers and fat melting creams are not proven to work and they can potentially be harmful, making them a bad investment for everyone. Strategies such as sweating in a sauna can cause a small amount of weight loss due to losing water from our body. However, once you eat or drink again, the weight returns. If fluids are not replenished dehydration can occur, which is a health risk.

Finally, Registered Dietitians are an excellent health professional to seek out for nutrition and diet advice. They must complete a college degree, an internship and be registered through the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) where every RD is required to maintain continuing education credits enabling them to keep up with current nutrition research. To find a dietitian in your area go to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ website at