Survey finds fad diets create significant health risks

People who go on fad diets are at risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies, long-term weight gain and impaired kidney function, according to dietitians who took part in research published yesterday.

The survey of 185 dietitians in the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute found that 96 per cent of dietitians believed fad diets could have significant health risks. Some 91 per cent cited the risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies and 65 per cent said diets risked long-term weight gain as a result of going on a fad diet. However, the same study found that, in a survey of 500 women, just one-third of people who had dieted thought their health had suffered as a result of a fad diet.

Regaining weight
Half of women aged 25-44 have tried a fad diet, according to the research commissioned by Kellogg's. Almost three-quarters of those dieters said they had lost weight at the time but, of those who did lose weight, 71 per cent said they did not maintain the weight loss.

Some 83 per cent of those surveyed had tried up to four fad diets such as the 5:2 diet, the Atkins diet, the cabbage soup diet, the Dukan diet, the blood type diet and the maple syrup diet.

Richelle Flanagan, president of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute, said fad diets come and go but nothing could replace a balanced diet for optimal health and wellbeing. "Fad diets tend to focus on cutting out major food groups or very low calorie diets that are often imbalanced and lacking in key nutrients," she said.

Good habits
"For those who are looking to lose weight it's about watching portion sizes, reducing snacking on higher fat foods, minimising takeaway-style meals, keeping the alcohol calories in check and choosing wholegrain foods at all meals to keep fuller for longer," she said.

Alison Healy

Alison Healy

Alison Healy is a contributor to The Irish Times