5 Dangerous Diets to Avoid for Losing Weight

Dietary change, especially a calorie-restricted diet, is a cornerstone for weight loss alongside exercise. However, there are some fad diets that can be dangerous and even life threatening. Despite the advances in nutritional science, these diets have persisted for years and even decades. It is therefore important to choose a scientifically-base diet for weight loss in conjunction with a doctor and dietitian.

Read more on weight loss myths.

Baby Food Diet

The baby food diet may seem like a safe and possibly even effective weight loss approach for adults but this may not necessarily be the case. Baby food is known for being highly nutritious, particularly the baby food produced by reputable manufacturers.

However, it must be remembered that the quantity of macro- and micronutrients in a jar of baby food is not sufficient for the adult body. The diet may recommend replacing just two out of three meals with baby food and then opting for one ‘normal’ adult diet or replacing all three meals with baby food.

The calories within a jar of baby food is insufficient to sustain an adult and results in hunger possibly with subsequent overeating. Eating large amounts of baby food is also not effective as the combined calories can be excessive.

Cotton Ball Diet

The cotton ball diet does not only stand up to the supposed ‘science’ behind it but it can even be deadly. The theory behind this diet is that by swallowing cotton balls, it occupies space in the stomach. This supposedly stretches the stomach, makes one feel full and eventually the cotton balls will be passed out safely in the stool, if not digested.

However, this theory is flawed. Firstly the cotton balls “shrink” when it comes into contact with water in the gut and is compressed by the strong muscle contractions in stomach. Therefore it cann stretch the stomach and make one feel full for hours.

Secondly, the balls can become lodged in the airways during swallowing or cause an intestinal obstruction. Furthermore, the cotton balls may contain toxic chemicals which can be dangerous when consumed in large quantities.

Caffeine Diet

There appears to be some scientific evidence that supports the potential weight loss effects of the caffeine diet. Caffeine is a mild appetite suppressant. It is also a stimulant that could moderately increase metabolism.

Furthermore caffeine is a diuretic which causes water loss and with over 60% of the body mass being water, it can reduce body weight. However, these effects are minor and short lived. Once normal eating patterns are restored, the weight will quickly return.

Significant weight loss does not occur with the caffeine diet unless a person consumes very low calorie caffeinated beverages, like coffee without sugar rather than cola, and does not consume sufficient food. This is not practical nor sustainable and can compromise a person’s health.

The stimulant effects of caffeine can also adversely affect blood pressure and heart rate. It may disturb sleep patterns and insufficient sleep has been shown to contribute to weight gain. Furthermore continous caffeine intake can lead to dehydration which can also be dangerous.

Apple Cider Vinegar Diet

Many people see apple cider vinegar as a food and therefore deem it safe as a weight loss supplement. Indeed, apple cider vinger is not harmful in small quantities. However, when used regularly like in the apple cider vinegar diet then it can be dangerous.

Although studies have shown that apple cider vinger may reduce appetite, there is little evidence to support the claims that it can boost the metabolism. This appetite suppressant effect is short lived. It may also contribute to indigestion and exacerbate digestive conditions like gastroparesis.

In addition, the acidity can cause irritation of the mouth and throat. Several studies have shown that apple cider vinegar may affect the action od diabetes, hypertension and heart disease medication. Some of these drug interactions can also contribute to low potassium levels.

Starvation Diet

Starvation diet does not refer to a specific diet. Instead it is an umbrella term that refers to several different diets that are very low in calories. The term starvation can be misleading as very few people can function effectively without eating any food at all after 48 hours, if not sooner.

Despite the body having resources like glycogen and fat to sustain lifewithout food intake, these are short term mechanisms. There are several immediate dangers in starving. Contrary to popular belief, it will not result in sustained weight loss and rapid weight loss with these diets hold its own dangers.

Read more on rapid weight loss.

The body is in need of a constant supply of food. Energy is produced from food which is utilized by every cell in the body. As a result of starvation, the activity of cells slows down and maintains a low energy state while the body turns to its stores.

However, this will eventually result in death if starvation is sustained for long periods. Once a person stops starving themselves, the body’s survival mechanisms take action. This will ensure that the body’s stores, like fat, are increased in expectation of another period of starvation.

Why Are Other Diets Also Dangerous?

The five diets discussed above are not the only diets that are dangerous. Several others, like the HCG diet and the cabbage soup diet, may also be dangerous for various reasons. The most important factor in most of these diets is that it disrupts the normal biochemical processes in the body that are essential for health and sustaining life.

The aim of most of these diets are to drastically reduce calorie intake. While calorie reduction is the cornerstone of losing weight, there are limits to this restriction below which the effects on the body can be adverse. These dangerous diets surpass these limits of calorie restriction. The body is also ‘starved’ of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) which are required for various purposes in the body.

People with chronic diseases like diabetes or using medication are particularly prone to adverse effects from these dangerous diets. Most importantly these diets do not achieve its primary purpose of weight loss. In fact there may be subsequent weight gain and the risk to health and life is greater than the risks associated with obesity.


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