Are fad diets safe? The Cabbage Soup diet has about 1,398, which qualifies as a low-calorie diet. The 3-day diet has only 978, which comes dangerously close to a very low calorie diet (VLCD). Most people assume that these diets don’t last long enough to do any damage, but that may not be true.
When a VLCD is prescribed by a doctor, the calories are usually given in the form of specially formulated, nutritionally complete, liquid meals containing 800 calories or less per day. VLCDs supposedly contain all the recommended daily requirements for vitamins, minerals, trace elements, fatty acids and protein. The dieter must remain under medical supervision throughout the diet.
Because of the extremely low calories per day, a VLCD diet is never prescribed to children, no matter how much they weight, but many teens find fad diets on the Internet and give them a try. And fad diets don’t have the benefit of scientific studies and specially-formulated diet foods to make sure they contain all the nutrients a person needs.
There are a number of risks associated with reduced-calorie, low-calorie, and very low calorie diets. Among the risks are:
– Gallbladder disease
– Dry skin and hair
– Reduced immune response
– An imbalance in minerals and electrolytes, which can lead to osteoporosis.
– Anemia (a lack of iron in the blood).
– Irregular periods for women
Few people are able to stay on a fad diet for very long, since the body objects to starvation and the dieter soon gives in to the desire for food. When the diet is abandoned, the dieter may be unable to stop eating, which is a common result of short-term starvation. This almost inevitably leads to weight gain, so the dieter ends up buying a bigger pair of jeans instead of fitting into a smaller size, as she intended.
Some of the side effects of low-calorie diets do not go away immediately after the diet is over. Studies have shown that the clinical depression that often comes during a diet may actually get worse after the dieter goes back to eating a normal diet. Some research volunteers even experienced psychotic episodes while eating far more calories than most people get on fad diets.
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