Fad Fares

Those who participate in fad diets may be unaware of their hidden risks.


photo by Lucie Flagg

Gluten-free products have become increasingly popular in recent years, but the benefits and risks are not yet sufficiently understood.

Lucie Flagg, Staff Writer

It’s not an uncommon occurrence — you’re strolling through the grocery store and look up to see a huge display labeled “Keto” or “Gluten-Free.” The media has taken to designating these “fad diets” to the lives and routines of younger generations, though many people of all ages have enjoyed these lifestyle changes in recent years. So, what are these diets and how do they help improve lives?

Celebrities like Lady Gaga and Kourtney Kardashian have reported maintaining a gluten-free lifestyle, and while some enjoy the benefits of going gluten-free voluntarily, others have no choice.

People want these quick fixes and often turn to fad diets for guidance.”

Gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, and rye products, is the cause of severe gastrointestinal and skin issues for those who suffer from celiac disease. More and more people are being diagnosed with this disease each day, totaling up to about 1% of the world population. As this population continues to eat the gluten-free diet, many have seen the once-unlucky diet as a way to lose weight fast. People want these quick fixes and often turn to fad diets for guidance. 

The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark set out to determine whether or not this fad diet improves the lives of those who follow it by creating two test groups: one that follows a high-gluten diet and another that follows a low-gluten diet. 

By the end of the eight-week test period, the results showed that those on the low-gluten diet had less gastrointestinal discomfort and small weight losses. For some, these minimal improvements may be enough to adhere to the lifestyle, but others, like Dr. Daniel A. Leffler from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, believe that the diet is not as healthy as the media makes it out to be. 

“The average American diet is deficient in fiber,” said Dr. Leffler. “Take away whole wheat and the problem gets worse.” 

Contrary to what the media reports about the diet, some people find that maintaining a gluten-free lifestyle can actually be the cause of weight gain. While many believe pre-packaged gluten-free foods are a healthier alternative to their counterparts, these processed foods often contain higher fat, sugar, and calorie content to make up for the lack of gluten. 

It’s important to recognize that the gluten-free diet should be a gateway towards a healthier lifestyle. For those who want to lose weight, following the diet may be a good way to find a routine and slowly incorporate more fresh produce into daily lives. 

Like the gluten-free diet, the ketogenic diet, also known as keto, has been extremely popular in recent years. The low-carbohydrate, high-fat based diet works to put the body in a ketosis metabolic state, which is known to increase weight loss effects.

“The keto diet is primarily used to help reduce the frequency of epileptic seizures in children,” said dietitian Kathy McManus from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “While it also has been tried for weight loss, only short-term results have been studied, and the results have been mixed.”

While it also has been tried for weight loss, only short-term results have been studied, and the results have been mixed.”

— Kathy McManus

Aside from the clear benefits, the keto diet also has many hidden risks. The most prominent risk is consuming too many saturated fats. It’s important for those on the diet to focus their meals and snacks on healthier fats, such as nuts, avocados, and coconut oil. 

As many fruits and vegetables have high-carb content, some people cut produce out of their diets altogether and focus on consuming fats. While this may seem like the sole purpose of the diet, avoiding these healthier carbohydrates can lead to severe nutrient deficiencies. 

Formulating a diet rich in healthy fats while still consuming the proper nutrients is crucial in successfully participating in the keto diet. It’s always recommended to talk to a doctor or dietician before attempting diets, such as the ketogenic diet or gluten-free. 

The popularity of these diets is fairly new to the world, and the overall risks and benefits are generally unknown. So the next time you pass by that large grocery store display, try something new. You never know what you may end up loving.