Food and Health

Fad Diets

By Jessie Popelka, dietetic intern, WVU Extension Service Families & Health

fad-diets juicing Fad diets are nothing new to the American public. Low carb, cabbage soup, and the grapefruit diet are just a few examples of the hundreds of diets that have promised quick long lasting results. Yet, fad diets have consistently proven to be unhealthy and to not carry their results long terms. Below are some of the current trends in dieting, and why they might not be the healthiest idea.


Promoters of juice diets claim that juicing extracts most of the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients from fruits and vegetables, without all that pesky fiber that slows down the digestion process. Juicing fruits and vegetables can be a great way to add servings of vegetables to the diet. However, with most Americans receiving far less fiber than is recommended, eating the whole food might be the better option. If someone is not a fan of the taste of vegetables or fruits but can stomach them better in juice form, juicing may be a helpful supplement to a nutritious diet. Remember to make sure you are getting in the recommended fiber in other forms.


Detox diets or cleanses typically involve a period of fasting followed by a very strict diet typically including some combination of raw fruits and vegetables, fruit juices, water, and in some cases herbs or supplements. Some people do claim to feel more energetic on these types of diets. However, that is probably attributed to a lack of processed foods. The thought process behind detox diets is to rid the body of toxins that build up in the system. The liver and kidneys appear to do a fine job of this on their own and most medical professionals believe that no additional detoxing is necessary. Detox diets may come with side effects such as fatigue and vitamin and mineral deficiencies (not to mention hunger and moodiness). Detox diets are only short term solutions and will not be helpful long term.

Colon Cleansing

One of the more uncomfortable fad diets is colon cleansing. This may be used in combination with detox diets, or by itself. The idea behind this fad is to rid the body of excess matter that is built up in the intestines. As with detox diets, most medical professionals agree that the digestive system and bowel are very efficient and capable of ridding the body of excess matter as long as there is adequate fiber and water intake. Colon cleansing can have serious side effects such as cramping, bloating, nausea, vomiting, dehydration, and even bowel perforations and infections.


Photo Illustration by Tony Cenicola/The New York Times