The Side Effects of Dieting

Cheryl S. Grant

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Diet really is a four letter word. We all know they have plenty of drawbacks, but how many women do you know who haven’t been on at least one before?

Diet plans are often touted as being able to help us lose weight and get healthy. Some focus on calorie restriction, some carbs, and some portion control. Creators of these diet plans claim that theirs is the best. But with all the diet plan options out there, an estimated 60 percent of women are either obese or overweight. And it isn’t from lack of trying because 56.4 percent of American women that were surveyed between 2013 and 2016 reported that they tried losing weight in the last year. Though clearly, no one diet works for everyone — it has been reported that 95% of diets fail. Worst yet, most will regain the weight that they had lost within one to five years.

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In the last few years, plans such as Keto, Paleo, Whole30, and Dukan diet have taken center stage. “Generally speaking, they are not a long term solution for keeping weight and excess body fat off,” says Tina Martini, fitness guru, naturopathic chef, and author of Delicious Medicine: The Healing Power of Food. “Often, you will put on more weight than you originally took off while following a trend diet.”

But other than the possibility of them not being useful for long term weight loss, are there other consequences to these diets? We share the side effects of the most popular diets.

Keto

The ketogenic diet, or keto diet, is a popular low carb, high fat diet. It’s based on the premise of eating a small number of carbs so that your body will burn fat for energy in a state known as ketosis. In essence, you are significantly lowering your intake of fruits, grains, vegetables, pasta, and rice and replacing them with high-fat foods and protein. “Ketosis is a dangerous condition that can do long term-damage to your overall health,” says Martini. “There is too much focus on adding additional fats,” she says. Other experts seem to be wary of the plan as well.

Moreover, in the latest U.S. News and World Report’s (USNWR) annual rankings of “Best Diets Overall,” keto landed at 38 out of 41. Additionally, there have been those who have complained of flu-like symptoms from low-carb diets. They report a lack of energy, nausea, stomach upset, and decreased mental function. These symptoms are often referred to as “keto flu.”

Paleo

The foundation of the paleo diet is to eat foods based on what was presumed to be consumed during the Paleolithic era, an estimated 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago. The idea is to eliminate anything that a cave dweller might not have eaten such as refined sugar, dairy, legumes, and grains. Research has shown that the paleo diet can improve the effectiveness of insulin, which can lead to lowered insulin resistance, an essential factor in controlling diabetes. Alternately, it may also lead to low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), if you use certain glucose-lowering medications. Other side effects are bad breath, low energy, and diarrhea.

Whole30

The Whole30 diet ties with Keto on the USNWR’s rankings at 38.Yet, it’s still trendy — there are over 4 million hashtagged pictures on Instagram. The diet operates on the idea that our physical and mental health is tied to what we eat. Since the evidence isn’t clear cut as to which foods are the culprit, observers are asked to eliminate all traces of sugar, dairy, alcohol, and legumes for 30 days. Instead, you can eat meat, seafood, eggs, veggies, and fruits. At day 31, you should feel healthier and ready to reintroduce foods that were eliminated. Your body’s response to the re-introduced food should tell you which ones you need to avoid or limit. The diet’s promotion of meat consumption is its downfall. The American Institute for Cancer Research has recommended that you limit how much red meat you eat because of its link to colorectal cancer, which affects 1 in 24 women.

Dukan diet

The Dukan diet, which focuses on eating a lot of protein for weight loss over counting calories, ranks last on the USNWR list. It is broken into four phases that are a mixture of eating high protein with oat bran at the start with a gradual introduction of veggies and some carbs. “The biggest fad ever, nothing here says balance,” says Martini. The same concerns exist with this diet as with the other low carb, high protein plans. Martini suggests choosing a more rounded diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, which is number one on the USNWR list. To feel your best, she recommends that you, “Pick good fats, exercise, get outdoors, and eat small, consistent meals from a variety of foods close to nature.”

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