Diets. You’ve heard of them, you’ve tried them. You’ve seen them on celebrities Instagram and endorsed in magazines. Especially in recent years there has been an unprecedented weight-loss craze that barely has any connection to a healthy lifestyle. Keep reading for a quick fact-check of five of the most hyped diets.
Gluten is a protein and can be found in grains like wheat or rye. Coeliac disease is a medical gluten intolerance. It makes the body react to gluten in a way that can include abdominal pain and bloating.
Some people have started to believe that gluten is the reason for otherwise unexplained weight gain or general health problems.
A study by the BMJ has proven that avoiding gluten when you are not actually intolerant can have harmful long-term health impacts. Gluten-containing grains have been found to help in preventing cardiovascular disease and categorically not eating them can increase the risk.
In addition to that, gluten-free products are generally more expensive than their normal counterparts. That is the reason why many countries offer tax deductions for people suffering from coeliac disease.
It is a myth that gluten is the culprit that is solely responsible for your weight gain if you’re not intolerant. You are doing your body more harm than good by following the gluten-free diet without having coeliac disease.
2. THE PALEOLITHIC DIET (PALEO)
The Paleolithic diet, or commonly shortened as Paleo, is based on what humans are thought to have been eating during the Paleolithic era. This era was about 2.4 million to 10.000 years ago and is also referred to as the old stone age.
It includes lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Basically everything that humans living during that time could acquire themselves.
It excludes products that are mainly grown and produced on farms, including dairy, legumes, potatoes and refined sugars.
Paleo is based on the “discordance hypothesis“, which suggests that the human body is not made for foods that have been introduced with farming techniques. Following this diet is supposed to reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. All are believed to be triggered by the introduction of farmed products without the human body having been able to adapt to the quick changes.
Short term trials have shown that Paleo can be beneficial, with good results including weight loss and improved glucose tolerance.
But in the long term, sustained weight loss is definitely not guaranteed. Especially because of the lacking variety and the rules being hard to follow nowadays.
It can also be quite expensive and because of the omission of dairy, most followers will develop a calcium deficiency.
With high consumption of red meat, the risk of heart disease, kidney disease and stroke rises.
But there is not yet enough long term research to definitely determine whether following the Paleo diet for years can change your health status in a positive or negative way.
3. THE KETOGENIC DIET (KETO)
The Ketogenic diet, or Keto in short, is consistent of low-carb and high-fat food intake. Its goal is to effectively burn more fat. Keto gets its name from the desired results. It makes the body produce ketones, which are chemicals created in the liver.
They are produced when you are lacking insulin, or eat very few carbs and little protein, and can’t turn glucose into energy. The liver turns stored fat into Ketones, which are then sent into your bloodstream, providing your muscles with energy.
If you have diabetes, you are at risk of producing too many ketones. You could develop diabetic ketoacidosis, which can be life threatening.
Keto-followers believe in producing a lot of ketones by consistently ingesting almost no carbs and moderate protein. This leads to ketosis which burns your stored fat.
It’s supposed to have the same effect as fasting without having to actually fast. The diet often helps epileptic children to control seizures. It also tends to reduce triglycerides, which pose a heart disease risk, and lower blood sugar.
Keto seems to be very effective in helping with short term weight loss. But in the long term most bodies adjust to the diet and it will lose the desired effect.
Returning to your normal eating habits after Keto will likely make you put on all the weight again.
Followers of this diet will also be prone to nutrient deficiency, liver problems, kidney problems and constipation.
In general, the ketogenic diet will have long term effects on your metabolism and can be very dangerous for people who suffer from diabetes.
If you are considering going on this diet, you need to do very careful research beforehand.
4. INTERMITTENT FASTING
This is one of the diets on this list that I have tried myself. Intermittent Fasting has been around for ages, but has increased significantly in popularity the last decade. Before going further into this, it should be said that this diet can be dangerous.
People who should not fast include those who are underweight, pregnant, breastfeeding, under 18 or suffer from eating disorders (in which case this might be a trigger and you should skip to number five).
Fasting is taking a voluntary break from eating for a number of reasons. It is essential that if you choose to fast, you have sufficient stored body fat to live off.
I am definitely not the biggest advocate for this diet, because I believe it to have messed with my metabolism. It can also be an easy gateway into an eating disorder, which is why I would never recommend it.
The idea behind it is that your body uses up the energy it gets from eating, for example by working out or taking a walk. I would not recommend working out while on this diet because I have repeatedly fainted when doing so.
your body use up the energy it gets from eating, for example working out or taking a walk. I would not recommend working out while on this diet because I have repeatedly fainted when doing so.
If you have eaten more carbohydrates than your body can store, the liver turns the excess glucose into body fat. This is called de novo lipogenesis.
When we don’t eat, this process goes into reverse. Insulin levels decrease, which signals the body to burn stored energy, meaning body fat. This happens after approximately 24 to 36 hours.
Intermittent fasting is thought of as a way to create a balance. Since fasting is the opposite of eating, you can only do one at a time. If you fast intermittently, you are allegedly restoring balance.
It is recommended to eat every three hours, but intermittent fasters take it further. Most of the benefits of this diet are speculation. And all the proved benefits are short term: Weight loss, increased fat burning and lower blood insulin and sugar levels.
But I can tell you from my, my mothers and my grandmothers experience, the weight will come back.
Intermittent fasting also has a negative impact on the body, which includes the before mentioned metabolism change and danger of developing an eating disorder.
Other side effects are severe headaches, constipation, dizziness, cramps and lack of energy.
I have experienced all of these. As I already said, I don’t recommend this diet.
5. JUICE CLEANSES
This is the other diet that I have tried and I definitely like it more than intermittent fasting. But I haven’t seen big results when I did this.
For the duration of this cleanse, dieters will only drink fruit and vegetable juices and cut out sugar, caffeine and alcohol.
Juice cleanses vary in length, I for example did mine for three days while my father did one for one week.
Some people blend their own juices. But many stores offer juice cleanse packages, which are very expensive most of the time. It is important to drink juices that are made for this purpose, not those with sugar and a lengthy list of chemical additives.
When going on a juice cleanse, people do expect to lose weight but also free their body from built up toxins. It’s supposed to catalyse the body’s natural detox process and therefore flush them out.
How it works is similar to all diets: Your body doesn’t get enough food so it uses up stored energy and fat. But as for all diets, doing this for too long is unhealthy and can result in a yo-yo effect.
This diet is actually proven to have positive short term effects like better health because of increased vitamin intake, improved digestion and weight loss.
And again, if stuck to for a longer time, there can be negative effects. These can include kidney stones, low blood sugar and bacterial infections if the juice is unpasteurised.
As for my personal experience, it did no harm. Especially because I didn’t do it for longer than three days. I did feel exhausted but it was a fun challenge.
It is safe to say that to much of something is never good and that especially applies to dieting.
As long as you don’t overdo it, you should be safe. But “overdoing” it is crossing a thin line and that line can be very subjective. I suggest that if you are looking to lose weight or be healthier, you look for something that won’t harm you in the long term like these diets can.
Going vegan has worked for many people for example, and My Home Chef’s Nicoletta is a qualified nutritionist that can prepare a delicious vegan meal for you!
If you have tried any of these diets or know of any other effects that I didn’t mention, tell me in the comments!