This article has being republished from AIA Vitality-VLife June, 2017

Obesity in Australia is on the rise, so too is the number of fad diets promising rapid weight loss and other health advantages, without any backing by solid science. Fad diets are often highly restrictive, low in energy and contain unusual, expensive and unnecessary foods and ingredients. But, do some of these ‘fad diets’ actually work? We’ve reviewed nine of the most popular to find out – check out the first four in this article, with the rest to follow in Part 2.

1. Paleo Diet

What is it? A diet ‘closer’ to that of our ancient ancestors. Banned foods include dairy, grains and legumes, as well as ‘seed oils’ such as canola or sunflower oil. Encourages grass-fed meats, organic vegetables and fruit, nuts and animal fats.


  • Promotes fruits and vegetables, lean meats and fish.
  • Avoids highly processed foods.


  • Excludes nutritious core foods – wholegrains and dairy.
  • Encourages use of coconut oil – not supported by current research, due to saturated fat content.
  • Promotes a high red meat intake – associated with increased risk of bowel cancer.
  • Encourages restrictive eating – not sustainable in the long-term.
  • By banning certain nutritious foods, you’re at great risk of falling short of important nutrients.

Verdict: By banning certain core nutritious foods, followers of this diet will be at a greater risk of falling short of important nutrients. The diet may also encourage restrictive eating, which is not sustainable in the long-term.

2. Clean Eating Diet

What is it? ‘Clean’ eating usually includes plenty of fresh, wholefoods from the core food groups, excluding packaged and processed foods.


  • Promotes fresh, wholefoods.
  • Reduces consumption of highly processed foods.
  • Positive focus on healthy foods.


  • The approach can be taken to an extreme, which may impact upon the enjoyment of a food.
  • Restricting the occasional small amount of ‘discretionary choices’ is not a balanced approached and usually not sustainable over the long-term.

Our Verdict: ‘Clean eating’ can be a healthy option, when done with a moderate approach. It’s important to understand that a healthy, balanced diet involves eating a wide variety of nutritious foods, in the right amounts, while occasionally being able to enjoy small amounts of ‘discretionary choices’. It’s about taking a balanced approach that is sustainable over the long-term.

3. Vegan Diet

What is it? A diet where only plant-based foods are eaten. No animal products are consumed or used.


  • Encourages consumption of fruits and vegetables.
  • Often higher in fibre and vitamin C.
  • Low in saturated fat.


  • Excludes core foods.
  • Can cause nutrient deficiencies.
  • Is often not sustainable in the long term.

Our verdict: Unless for religious or environmental reasons, we wouldn’t recommend a vegan diet as it’s restrictive. Given that a vegan diet involves avoiding all animal products, careful planning with an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) is recommended to ensure nutritional needs are met.

4. Low Sugar Diet

What is it? A diet low in both added and natural sugars.


  • Reducing foods high in added sugar such as store-bought cakes and biscuits, soft drinks, energy drinks, vitamin waters, confectionery and sweet snacks is helpful for weight management and to reduce the risk of nutrition related chronic diseases such as diabetes.


  • “Low Sugar” doesn’t distinguish between types of sugar.
  • Excluding natural sugar from fruit and dairy foods will put you at risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
  • E.g. eliminating fruit from your diet makes it difficult to meet daily fibre requirements, which is important for gut health and bowel habits.

Verdict: Whilst a low sugar diet sounds like a great diet for anyone, there is one main problem with it… evidence shows that there is no one single nutrient or food responsible for our health – it’s complex and the key is balance. Therefore focusing on ‘just’ sugar is not the answer. Saying that, opting for a lower sugar diet within the realms of a healthy, balanced diet is of course a good option.

Anna and Alex are the Accredited Practising Dietitians The Biting Truth. They use innovative and creative themes to deliver up-to-date, health and nutritional information to inspire you to lead a more nutritionally enriched life.




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