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Fad diets and your health: What's the risk?

Paoli Hospital February 5, 2016 General Wellness

When it comes to your cardiovascular health, one of the best you can do to protect your heart is to ensure your weight is within a healthy range. But trying to keep the scale steady can be difficult and, as a result, many people turn to weight loss plans that promise to help shed pounds quickly.

Although losing excess weight can protect your heart--and your health in general--from a number of chronic conditions, doing it an unhealthy manner could be doing more harm than good.

“When you’re trying to lose weight, it can be tempting to fall for the promises of a fad diet. While many of them will allow you to lose weight quickly, the methods these plans use to allow you to lose weight so quickly are often unsafe and can put your long-term health at risk,” says John McNamara, DO, cardiologist at Lankenau Heart Institute at Paoli Hospital, part of Main Line Health.

So, even if you’ve got a friend, neighbor, sister or uncle who swears that the cayenne pepper diet or South Beach helped them shed their baby weight or made them look svelte just in time for a beach vacation, don’t be so sure that it’s the healthiest way to lose weight, or that it’s right for you.

Fad diets: What’s the risk?

Each time a new fad diet is introduced, it seems to promise that it has the solution to weight loss. More often than not, that solution involves eliminating a key food group, whether it is carbohydrates, fats, or whole grains.

The truth is, though, that each of these is an important component of a healthy diet.

“In order to maintain a healthy heart, the body needs a balance of fruits and vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats, like almonds and avocado,” says Dr. McNamara. “By eliminating these foods from our diet, the body does not get the necessary nutrients it needs.”

In addition to being nutritionally deficient, these fad diets are also believed to impact your risk for diabetes and heart disease. While research has yet to confirm a link between crash diets and these chronic conditions, losing weight at a steady pace and eating a balanced diet is the best way to a healthy lifestyle.

Your physician or a nutritionist can help determine what the right diet or weight loss plan is for you, but Dr. McNamara stresses the importance of the tried-and-true formula for weight loss success: diet and exercise.

“There will always be a new method that people are turning to to lose weight quickly, but the best way to maintain good health and keep your weight in control is to eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly,” says Dr. McNamara.

If you're looking for a long-term weight loss plan that's right for you, talk to your health care provider.

Main Line Health offers nutrition experts that are registered, licensed dietitians. As members of the American Dietetic Association, they stay up to date on the latest nutrition research that may have an impact on your health and well-being, and can offer an individual nutrition plan to fit your lifestyle. Visit our website to learn more about Main Line Health’s nutrition services.