Do fad diets actually work?

Students discuss the ethics of popular diet trends and how they work long-term

Fad diets and questionable dieting tips have become increasingly popular in the age of social media, but the American Psychological Association reports that the majority of dieters regain the weight they lose within two to five years. Photo illustration by Cassidy Keola

The last time freshman Lauren Trujillo followed a diet, she had a strict meal plan she went through religiously. It involved eating five times a day. Rotating between steak, fish and chicken, she made sure to always have greens and then a protein shake.

“It made me feel good, but after a while, I was sick of it,” Trujillo said. “I wasn’t putting stuff in my body that was bad for me, but I would get sick of it because it was the exact same thing every single week.”

Those who resort to intensive meal plans and workout regimens may have another FDA-approved method for weight loss. Plenity, a new hydrogel capsule made of cellulose and citric acid, is on the market for those with a body mass index of 25 to 40.

The pill was created to help overweight and obese individuals feel fuller, according to Healthline. Similar drugs on the market have only been available to those considered obese, with a BMI above 30.

“I think (fad dieting) is gimmicky because I don’t think they actually work,” said Laura Metraux, a sophomore health sciences major. “You can’t just drink or take something and your fat magically goes away.”

People should focus on healthy lifestyle changes because people feel too restricted, Metraux said.

“Instead of limiting what you can eat to lose weight I think that people should be taught about how to have balance and to eat everything but in moderation,” Metraux said.

The Boston Medical Center reported that of the estimated 45 million Americans who go on a diet annually, 50 percent of them use fad diets. Considering that in 2014, 70 percent.

Eric Sternlicht, a Chapman health sciences professor, said that research shows that fad diets don’t work long-term. A 2007 study by the American Psychological Association, which was updated in 2013, said the majority of dieters regain the majority of their weight back in two to five years. These individuals tend to lose lean body mass, which is determinant of resting metabolic rate and influences how many calories that person can burn.

“Basically, any diet works for weight loss because the diet creates a caloric deficit,” Sternlicht said.

Nasira Burkholder-Cooley, a food science and nutrition professor, said that the rise of the internet and social media influences perceptions of diets.

“It is far too easy to disseminate information on health and nutrition,” Burkholder-Cooley said. “So much of that information lacks scientific evidence and consumers are left to sort through the myths, anecdotal stories and exaggerated claims.”

Vani Bhojani, a freshman health sciences major, believes celebrities play a role in the widespread use of fad diets.

“Bigger celebrities (are) promoting these foods that don’t really work in the long run, and lead to people believing that eating or drinking like these celebrities can make them look fit,” Bhojani said. “It’s not right for them to post false facts about these fad diets and they should instead post actual, healthy ways for people to lose weight.”