What are FAD Diets and do they work? Types & Examples

FAD diets

Generally, fad diets are the diets that claim to provide weight loss results in quick time. In the world of nutrition, fad diets are very popular for weight loss and are often frequently followed by people.

These diets often get popular through social media and lack scientific evidence and expert advice. Because of the potentially booming business, many people, including celebs, become self-proclaimed experts in diet and nutrition, and this extends beyond true expertise.

Nutritionists and dieticians, on the other hand, have investigated various fad diets and clarified the potential benefits and hazards of following such dietary habits.

What is a Fad Diet? Definition

The Oxford dictionary defines the word “Fad” as “widely shared enthusiasm for something, that is often short-lived and without any basic qualities.”

A fad diet is a dietary practice generally popular for a short time period without being a standard dietary recommendation. This type of diet often promises quick results with little to no effort based upon pseudoscientific facts.

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Unfortunately, this type of diet often ends up with harmful results. However, some might actually benefit you if recommended by a health care professional upon assessing your condition.

In this article, we will discuss the different types of fad diets and the pros and cons of these diets. We will explain which of these can actually be harmless if practiced with caution.

Reasons to Practice Fad Diet?

The most common reason for people to go for a fad diet is quick weight loss and almost everyone going for a fad diet needs quick weight loss with zero effort.

You must know that anything that brings quick results has harmful consequences. So, to stay on the safe side, you need to avoid those advertisements that promise 15-20kg weight loss within a week or a month.

What are the recommendations?

Overweight or obese patients should be prescribed a reduced-caloric diet plan to restrict excessive energy intake. The general recommendations for weight loss include a restriction of 500-750 calories per day (total daily calories ranging from 1200-1500 for women and 1500-1800 for men depending on their ideal body weight).

When different diets are compared in studies, the results ultimately come down to a reduction in energy intake. It is unlikely, that one magical technique can fit all patients.

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Medical nutrition treatment and anyone focusing on improving their diet for weight loss and health should focus on replacing empty dietary sources of calories with nutrient-dense whole meals.

Popular Fad Diets:

Some of the most popular fad diets include:

Ketogenic Diet/ Keto Diet:

keto diet fad diets
keto diet

This is one of the most highly practiced diets for weight loss. The main mechanism of this diet involves, reducing the intake of carbohydrates and adhering to a low-carb, high-fat diet.

This diet switches your body’s metabolic state to ketosis, this means that the body uses fat instead of carbs, to produce energy. In this way, your body burns the fat faster.

The body creates ketones during the breakdown of fat, which is then excreted by the body through frequent and increased urination. Dehydration and flu-like symptoms, such as disorientation, nausea, and irritability may result.

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Although it can result in weight loss because high-fat diets often maintain satiety and keep you full. But in the long run, harmful symptoms might appear.

Some of the many bad effects of this diet include dehydration, the body getting low on electrolytes and fluid due to excessive urination. Dehydration might also lead to kidney damage.

Obese people often have high cholesterol levels, so practicing a keto diet might put them at risk of cardiovascular disorders.

One study suggests that a ketogenic diet initially lowers hbA1c levels but it has been found to raise LDL and cholesterol levels leading to cardiovascular risk.[Ref]

Who Can Practice a Keto Diet?

This diet was developed to treat epilepsy and is now highly popular for weight loss.

Many people find this kind of restriction extremely difficult to maintain, and they are rarely true ketogenic beneficial. Problems arise when people try to increase dietary fat from unhealthy sources that have been advertised as good, such as butter, coconut oil, fatty meats, or other added oils.

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It is ideal to combine carbohydrate restriction with eating patterns such as whole-food/plant-based or Mediterranean diets, which are known to contain nutritious foods.

Even if this diet is recommended for weight loss, it must be carefully administered by a registered dietician. This type of diet should never be done on your own.

Intermittent Fasting:

best intermittent fasting for weight loss time schedule

This type of diet involves regular periods of fasting in which very low or no calories are consumed. This is of three types:

  • Alternate-day Fasting
  • Periodic Fasting
  • Time-restricted Fasting

Fasting is healthy and often results in weight loss. But this must be managed properly. If you follow this dietary pattern for a month, you will most likely get your desired weight, but you will put on weight faster if you start taking high-caloric foods right after you get your results.

The same is the case during Ramadan, people often get confused that even after fasting their weight remains the same. This is because people consume high-calorie food after the fast.

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Prolonged fasting without an expert’s recommendation can lead to starvation and muscle wasting which can cause serious malnourishment, increased hunger, dehydration, constipation, and micronutrient deficiencies.

Studies suggest that intermittent fasting techniques, bring desired weight loss and lower the prevalence of CAD. [Ref]

Another study concludes that, although intermittent fasting regime results in weight loss, there is no evidence that suggests that it can help in achieving prolonged and sustainable weight loss. [Ref]

For the most part, intermittent fasting is safe. Intermittent fasting, however, it has been found to have some adverse effects. Furthermore, it is not the best option for everyone.

Paleo Diet (Caveman’s Diet):

The paleo diet, also known as the Paleolithic diet, is based on hunter-gatherer diets that existed thousands of years ago.

This type of diet eliminates processed/refined grains, as well as numerous foods with proven health advantages, such as dairy and beans/legumes, yet it often includes highly processed meats such as bacon.

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Overall, the concepts of this approach can significantly improve the quality and quantity of one’s diet, resulting in weight loss and health benefits due to caloric restriction, but caution must be exercised to avoid including unhealthy or caloric food just because it is “paleo,” such as high-fat meats.

The Carnivore Diet:

This dietary trend eliminates all foods other than animal meat or products and is inherently high in protein while being low in carbohydrates and variable in fat.

This appears to be quite dangerous because excluding plant-based foods with established health advantages such as vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts/seeds can have dangerous consequences, and so on, appears to be suboptimal.

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Following this diet will cause weight reduction due to a dramatically lower energy intake, which obviously takes out any “empty” calories from sugary drinks/foods, baked goods, candies, and other processed/refined starchy carbohydrates.

Adverse cardiometabolic alterations, such as cholesterol patterns and cardiovascular risk, are among the most serious health hazards of this diet. With this diet, lean meat and fatty fish would be a better choice, though it is still not recommended.

High protein diets:

High protein diets usually include greater protein (more than 25-30%). This type of diet might maintain satiety and result in overall low-calorie intake. But high protein diets can greatly affect the kidneys and should not be practiced until recommended by a dietician.

One study suggests that these diets have negative consequences, particularly in terms of the progression of chronic renal disease and an increase in cardiovascular risk. [Ref]

Protein Rich Diet for Vegetarians (Protein-Rich Fruits and Vegetables)

Some studies suggest that high protein diets are associated with an increased risk of kidney stone formation regardless of salt intake. Dietary animal protein, causes a high potential renal acid load (PRAL), a drop in urine pH, and moderate chronic metabolic acidosis. [Ref]

The Raw Food Diet:

raw food diet

The goal of this diet is to eat unprocessed plant-based meals raw to preserve the enzymes and vitamins that can be lost when cooked at high temperatures.

Fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds must account for at least 75% of this diet, however raw animal products are also permitted. Many people believe that it improves skin, aids in weight loss, and increases energy levels.

The Mediterranean Food (Breakfast, Snacks, Lunch, and Dinner)

But some raw meals are difficult to digest, and some minerals are not easily absorbed from raw food. Cooking carrots in oil, for example, increases their beta-carotene content and aids the body’s absorption of the antioxidant lycopene present in tomatoes.

If you don’t consume a variety of cooked and raw meals, you may be limiting your intake of nutrients like zinc and iron, which we receive mostly from cooked meat. Eating raw meat also leads to an increased risk of kidney disease.

High-Carbohydrate Diets:

High-carbohydrate diets that are mostly made up of high-glycemic carbohydrates (> 60% of total dietary energy) have negative metabolic effects. These diets raise blood triglycerides and insulin resistance, with the worst consequences in insulin-resistant conditions like type 2 diabetes or pregnancy.

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The American Diabetic Association recommends restricting dietary carbs to 45 percent of total energy in diabetic pregnancies and 80 percent of total energy outside of pregnancy.

Such diets put you at great risk of getting diabetes and kidney diseases.

Red Flags to Spot Fad Diets:

fad diets red flags

Fad diets often tend to have these points in common.

  • They always promise quicker results
  • False claims that sound too good to be real
  • Recommendations are often based on minimal scientific evidence
  • Often presented with dramatic statements
  • Elimination of one or more macronutrients
  • Never focus on all five food groups
  • Never related to basic dietary recommendations
  • Eliminate one macronutrient and focus on the other.

Healthy ways to lose weight:

The above-mentioned diets are only prescribed during specific conditions and their effects vary from person to person. These are some basic ways you can try by yourself at home, without any harmful consequences


A nutritious diet is required for appropriate development, just as a car requires the proper gasoline to run. That entails getting the correct mix of protein, carbs, and fat, as well as a variety of other nutrients.

When you follow a fad diet that eliminates essential nutrients, you put yourself in danger of becoming unwell. It’s possible that getting too little of any nutrient won’t produce any problems right away. However, if it is missing for an extended period of time, you may develop health concerns.

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Even if you are on a weight loss diet, you can never focus on one nutrient and completely ignore the other. For healthy weight loss, you need to practice moderation and variety in your food choices.

Portion Control:

Food portions have gotten bigger and bigger over time. Fast-food places aren’t the only places where you may get supersized meals. Researchers found that portion sizes of burgers, pizzas, cookies, ice creams, and other salty snacks have become bigger.

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You need to focus on your portion size. You can have a small amount of a food product at one meal. This will greatly aid in weight loss.

Physical activity:

No weight loss effort is complete without proper physical activity.  Regular work-out can help you burn extra calories. Portion control along with daily physical activity can lead to amazing results.

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Overall, a dietary pattern should be an energy-restricted plan that increases consumption of nutrient-dense foods in both healthy and individualized-preference patterns, at least for people battling with obesity and related medical concerns.

Despite their divisive nature, many fad diets have more in common than they have differences. Some general recommendations include:

  • Sugar-sweetened beverages should be avoided.
  • Reduce the amount of time you spend eating out at restaurants.
  • Replace refined/processed starchy or sugary carbs, such as numerous snack foods and baked goods, with whole-food, plant-based carbohydrate components of your diet, such as vegetables, legumes/pulses, and fruit.
  • Replace refined/processed oils/butter with whole-food, plant-based fats such nuts/seeds, olives, avocado, and fish in your diet instead of refined/processed oils/butter found in many snack items and baked products.
  • Reduce your intake of high-fat animal products and replace them with leaner protein sources.

What do you think?

Written by Dr. Ahmed

I am Dr. Ahmed (MBBS; FCPS Medicine), an Internist and a practicing physician. I am in the medical field for over fifteen years working in one of the busiest hospitals and writing medical posts for over 5 years.

I love my family, my profession, my blog, nature, hiking, and simple life. Read more about me, my family, and my qualifications

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