Fad Diets have existed since I can remember and I’m sure they have a much longer history than that. Why do we have fad diets?
One reason might be that new discoveries about how the body works were made and these led to new theories about diet. Or, someone claims to have found a better theory than the previous ones based on the results. In either case, we really need to know about the research and how it was conducted and who sponsored it.
Another reason for diet fads is that someone popularizes a theory so they can cash in on the false data that is circulated in order to take advantage of people’s desire to improve their health and physical condition. The key term is usually CASH IN.
Dietary approaches to real medical conditions can turn into diet fads
Diet theories are often about weight-loss, but they can also be about things like diabetes, Celiac Disease or other medical conditions that require a certain eating regimen. One example is gluten intolerance. I’m no expert, but I do know that one condition alone has created a Pandora’s box of theories, opinions and marketing ploys.
For example, there are people who truly have a gluten intolerance. They can’t digest gluten and get sick when they consume it. I know someone like that. A very small percent of people truly can’t consume gluten. Like my friend, if you have Celiac disease or allergies to wheat and other foods containing gluten, you really do have to be vigilant about avoiding gluten.
The Gluten-free Fad
But what about the rest of the gluten-free crowd? Why is “Gluten-Free” one of today’s biggest fads? You see a growing list of packaging marked gluten-free, restaurant menus with gluten-free choices, books and articles about the evils of gluten. For the small percent with real gluten intolerance, this is very helpful. But what about the rest of us? Gluten has gotten a very bad rap in modern society.
U.S. News & World Report reported a study in June 2015 that revealed,
“. . . 86 percent of individuals who believed they were gluten sensitive could tolerate it. Individuals with Celiac disease, a hereditary autoimmune condition that affects about 3 million Americans, or roughly 1 percent of the population, must avoid gluten. Those with extremely rare wheat allergies must also remove gluten from their diet. In addition, those with gluten sensitivity, a condition that affects 6 percent of the population (18 million individuals), should also avoid gluten.”
According to this study thirty percent of shoppers are choosing gluten-free products and a whopping forty-one percent of U.S. adults believe “gluten-free” foods are good for them and for everyone else. They don’t really know if it is or isn’t good, but they believe it.
This makes no sense at all! Gluten-free foods are usually higher in sugar, sodium and fat. Most of these consumers are not claiming to have Celiac disease, but many decide they are sensitive to wheat and gluten. Where did this thinking come from?
In his March 2013 newsletter, diet and nutritional expert Dr. John McDougall explains:
“Because this condition is so non-specific, my guess is that most of these people are simply sick from their unhealthful diet of meat, dairy foods, vegetable oils, and other junk food. Blaming gluten or wheat is wrong, and as a result, their efforts on gluten-free eating are misplaced. Benefits seen while attempting any new more restrictive diet regimen are from simply removing foods recognized to be unhealthful, irrelevant to their containing gluten or not.”
There have been many popular publications, such as the book Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis that took off like a rocket and influenced people to blame wheat and/or gluten on their unhealthy physical conditions.
The truth is that eating a gluten-free diet can be a cause for weight-gain, obesity and reduced health caused by lack of essential whole foods because it steers people away from starches. Yet it is promoted as a healthy weight-loss regime.
Starches satisfy the appetite and lack of starches easily leads to overeating. If you’re not eating starches such as whole grains and starchy vegetables then you are likely going to choose diet fads that are based on eating “low-carb” i.e. Atkins, Paleo or Keto. Or, you have read about Atkins, Paleo and Keto, you decided to follow them, and your decision is boosted by the gluten-free fad.
It is circular reasoning and doesn’t lead to any stable, knowledgeable and correct conclusions. As many have said before me, people love to hear good news about their bad habits.
Know how the Human Body Works
The key to understanding what is true and what is not true about food and diets is to understand how the body works. Understand what the true history of the human species is regarding food. Were we hunters or gatherers? What is the evidence?
When you read one of these fad diet theories, did you understand the research and did you understand how it was done and who had a vested interest in making you believe the conclusions? Did the conclusions make sense according to how the human body really works?
When you practice the program, is it highly workable in the short term and the long term? You’ve heard all about the benefits. What about negative effects if any. Again, if you know the basics of how your body works, you will be better able to make a wise decision.
I would love to hear your opinion about this. Let’s get the conversation started about fad diets!