“Here’s some advice. Stay alive.” — Haymitch Abernathy in Suzanne Collin’s The Hunger Games
Every year, Americans spend $40 billion on dieting, estimates the National Eating Disorders Association. That’s enough money to pay Snooki — who recently came under criticism for promoting a potentially dangerous diet pill — to appear in 1.3 million Jersey Shore episodes (at her current rate of $30,000 per episode).
While diets can have their proper place in terms of helping people achieve healthy, stable weight goals, many individuals turn to fad diet products and risky diet plans. Don’t play hunger games with your health, and avoid some of the most popular diets that medical experts have warned could be risky for your long-term wellness.
The Master Cleanse
This detox diet, which commands followers to eat no food while drinking laxatives for a minimum of 10 days, was first “invented” in the 1940s. Today, it enjoys continued success, probably propelled forward by purported use among celebrities such as Lindsay Lohan — who we all want to emulate, obviously. However, the Master Cleanse could be a master health hazard. The Harvard Medical School warns that the Master Cleanse and its detox diet counterparts lower your metabolism and can lead to “rapid weight gain” once normal eating resumes, while also potentially causing impaired bowel movements, depleted electrolytes and dehydration. Fun? It gets funner. An American Dietetic Association representative tells MSNBC that such diets could cause muscle breakdown and major vitamin deficiencies. So, save your laxative consumption for your next colon exam.
The Cabbage Soup Diet
Cabbage is a rich source of vitamin A and vitamin C, as well as polyphenols and anti-inflammatories. But as Jesus said, “Man can’t live on cabbage alone.” Or something like that. This diet is “strongly disapproved of by most medical experts and the American Heart Association,” warns the University of Wisconsin, while Providence Health Services — where this diet purportedly originated at — says it has “major concerns” and does not endorse such eating practices. While cabbage is healthy, eating only cabbage for the diet’s duration can create several caloric and nutrition deficiencies. You may be better off just eating your Cabbage Patch dolls.
The Macrobiotic Diet
Amber waves of grain, Amber Alert for your health. This dietary plan, which focuses on eating mostly grains, started taking formation as early as the days of Hippocrates. But Hippocrates is dead, and you could be, too, especially if you follow this diet plan for too long. The University of Texas notes that “individuals will experience a lack of calcium, Vitamin D, protein, iron and other essential vitamins.”
The claim that Dr. Atkins, creator of the famous low-carb diet that bears his name, died of a heart attack is an urban legend. But what’s really legendary are the potential health risks related to his diet. A study published in the Preventive Cardiology medical journal concludes that the long-term effects of a low-carb, high-protein diet includes reduced cardiovascular health, plus “impaired renal, bone, and gastrointestinal health.” Meanwhile, the American Heart Association and American Dietetic Association have all warned of the potential health risks related to low-carb dietary practices.
How to Spot a Fad Diet
The above examples are, alas, the tip of the proverbial iceberg that’s just waiting to sink your health goals. When you’re evaluating a diet, ask yourself the following questions:
1. Does this diet overemphasize a certain food category?
2. Does it guarantee rapid weight loss? (You should lose no more than two pounds a week)
3. Does it not include any recommendations for physical exercise?
4. Would Snooki do it?
As always, talk to your doctor before changing your eating practices. However, knowing some of the most common dangerous diets out there, as well as what questions you should ask yourself, arms you in your battle against poor health guidance.