June 27, 2017

The ever-booming wellness industry has always been heavily driven by people looking to lose weight, who have been seduced by promises made by celebrity-endorsed diets, health foods and supplements.

To put this into perspective statistics show that:

• 61.7 per cent of English adults are overweight or obese;

• 26 per cent of adults worldwide are obese.

The birth of social media and our reliance on mobile phones gives us yet more access to information about health and nutrition and bombards us with views on weight loss, healthy eating and fitness from unqualified bloggers and self-proclaimed ‘ambassadors of health’. All of this has led to an overload of information and confusion about what we should or should not be eating to stay healthy.

We’ve chosen some of the more popular food fads and diets of the last few years to find out if there is any evidence to back up their claims, or if following them is akin to throwing money down the drain…

Raspberry ketones

Raspberry ketones have become a popular weight- loos supplement. They supposedly cause the fat within cells to be ‘broken down more effectively’, helping the body ‘burn fat faster’. They also claim to be good for your metabolism.

Any health claims made by the VMS industry are highly-regulated by experts, and very few exist with respect to weight loss. While some studies in mice have shown that raspberry ketones may protect against weight gain and fatty liver disease, these involved massive dosages; much higher than you would get with supplementation. There are also no studies on raspberry ketones in humans, meaning this supplement doesn’t have a health claim.

With this in mind, your money is better spent on a gym membership and heathy diet; both of which will have a more beneficial effect on your weight.

Raw food diet

Also known as the ‘raw vegan diet’, the raw food diet is made up of uncooked, unprocessed, organic foods. Some also include unpasteurised dairy, raw eggs meat and fish. The main concept behind this diet is that cooking food reduces the natural levels of vitamins and minerals, and therefore only cold foods (or foods cooked below 118 degrees) are consumed.

Raw foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and sprouted grains are certainly a highly nutritious, valuable addition to the diet, but many of the health benefits attributed to following a raw food diet don't quite add up.

Raw ‘foodies’ frequently talk of beneficial enzymes found in raw foods, but in fact these are only necessary for plant survival and not essential for human health. Although our bodies couldn't function without enzymes, we can continue to make them throughout life, meaning we're never in short supply.

Will you lose weight on a raw food diet? Probably, given the potential low calorie content of this diet, but you may be restricting yourself of important food groups like protein and healthy fats. Following this type of diet requires a lot of planning, learning, and may also require supplements and even protein shakes.

Apart from the claims made by the diet, its content is actually really healthy as it promotes eating lots of fresh fruits, vegetables and other plant-based foods, while avoiding processed junk. Can it help with weight loss? If you follow the types of food recommended and watch your portion size then this diet offers a healthy way of eating.

Juice cleanses/detox

To be clear, there is no such thing as a detox. Juice cleanses have become very popular but really only offer you a way to starve yourself of valuable nutrients. The general idea is that by avoiding solid food the body switches into ‘cleanse mode’, excreting toxins and supposedly healing itself.

Firstly, there is no such process known as ‘cleanse mode’. The body is actually in a constant state of cleanse, which is what the liver, lungs and kidneys are there for. This diet lacks fibre and the nutrients that form the essential components of a healthy diet required to support life.

Unpleasant symptoms associated with this diet include dizziness and fatigue and despite what some think, a ‘juice diet’ is more likely to slow down your metabolism than kick start it.

Will you lose weight? Yes, as a result of a dramatic reduction in calories. Will you keep the weight off? Very unlikely, as this is more of a quick fix and offers no insight into maintaining a healthy weight through healthy eating.

5:2 diet

This still remains popular and involves two fasting days during the week, which are restricted to 500 calories for women and 600 for men. The evidence for the 5:2 is limited and weight losses have been shown to be similar to those in people following a calorie controlled diet.

At its root, the diet is basically reducing the overall amount of calories you eat across the week. There is some evidence to suggest that intermittent fasting may help to reduce the risk of certain diseases such as diabetes.

6:1 diet

Not to be confused with the 5.2 diet, the 6:1 diet involves avoiding food altogether for one day of the week. Avoiding food for a whole day is likely to lead to binging on the following days, which potentially means making up for lost calories.

Will you lose weight? This depends on what you eat on the non-fasting days, which would still need to be calorie controlled to reduce you overall intake across the week.

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