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Eliminate the Elimination Diets: Fad Dieting in the New Year

January 21, 2014

Year after year, losing weight is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions in The United States. With the promise to themselves to lose weight in the new year, people often times opt to go for the perceived “magic bullets” of dieting, the fad diets. Fad diets are usually only maintained on a short-term basis and some call for extremes such as cutting out one or more food groups from an individual’s diet.

Nyree Dardarian, Registered Dietitian (RD) and Director of Nutrition at the Drexel Recreation Center, has seen an increase in the number of celebrities who promote fad diets and more specifically, fad diets that are single macronutrient or contain a single type of food grouping for consumption.

“You could eat only a Snickers bar every day and lose weight, now that does not mean that you would be healthy. Extremely cutting Calories increases the risk of nutrient deficiencies and side effects such as irritability, fatigue and changes in cognitive function,” Dardarian said.

As soon as a person starts eliminating entire food groups from their diet, they start to eliminate nutrients that are found in those specific food groups, Dardarian said. For example, when you eliminate grains from your diet, you risk not meeting your needs for vitamins such as folate, thiamine and riboflavin, and minerals including iron, magnesium and selenium.  

”Weight loss is not magic, it takes work including a combination of behavior changes, physical activity, a moderate and balanced diet, plus well-being. All of these together are what help with that New Year’s resolution,” she said.

People with underlying chronic diseases such as kidney disease and diabetes can suffer greatly from changing their diet as significantly as to cut out a whole food group. Dardarian also cautioned that people can’t just take a supplement to replace the vitamins and nutrients lost while practicing these elimination diets.

Ultimately, fad diets aren’t sustainable and lack in key nutrients essential for a healthy lifestyle.

“You’re always going to be faced with a situation where you can’t stick to that diet. You will have to go to a family affair, a social event or a work related function that will require you to step out of that food restriction,” Dardarian said. “A fad diet is not something that you can depend on for the rest of your life to make you feel healthy and strong. Take it from its name, it’s a fad,” she concluded.

In Fall 2013, Drexel University introduced a program offering free nutrition counseling to its students. To schedule an appointment, email the Center for Integrated Nutrition and Performance at