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Dangerous Fad Diets: Are They Worth It?

Written by Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD · Pharmacology

Updated Jan 18, 2021

Dangerous Fad Diets: Are They Worth It?

 How dangerous are fad diets? How did some of these diets become popular? One of the driving factors for the popularity of these diets is social media. One of the major downsides of social media is the immense pressure to be picture perfect all the time. In line with this, many fad diets (often endorsed by celebrities and influencers) promise to produce a fit body in a short amount of time. Most health experts would not recommend most dangerous fad diets listed below.

#1: Tapeworm diet

This fad diet sounds dangerous—and it is. While nobody wants a parasite in their body, it is true that a tapeworm can “help” you lose weight. However, this is not ideal in any way. Long ago, tapeworm pills were trendy, but they are now banned.

Tapeworms latch onto the intestinal walls in order to steal nutrients from its host. As a result, people lose weight due to malnutrition. Further complicating the problem is the fact that the tapeworm can cause symptoms of anemia and be transmitted to other people. If you find yourself eating more yet losing weight, it may be time to get a check up.

#2: An apple cider vinegar (only) diet 

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) has been a staple for many dieters for decades. A couple of studies have shown that ACV has several health benefits, including weight loss. But when done incorrectly, the ACV diet can do more harm than good. Side effects of too much ACV or drinking it undiluted are mouth sores, hyperacidity, and damaged tooth enamel. It can also interact with certain medications.

The ACV diet is not actually dangerous when done properly. It is important to note that ACV diet should not solely involve drinking vinegar, but rather incorporating it into your existing diet. ACV alone will not make you lose weight, but drinking a diluted glass of it can help while you are watching your calories and exercising.

dangerous fad diets

#3: “K-pop” diets

With the rise in popularity of South Korean dramas, movies, and pop music in Asia and the rest of the world, all eyes are on these celebrities. Within South Korea alone, the beauty standards are supposedly some of the harshest, even for ordinary citizens. This pressure has taken a toll on the mental health of many.

Some of the most dangerous fad diets found online are the alarmingly restrictive diets of several Korean actors and K-pop idols. One star is said to only eat an apple for breakfast, a sweet potato for lunch, and a protein shake for dinner. This is approximately less than 300 calories!

While dieters usually cut down on calories, 300 every day is not enough for anyone. It is better to determine what your daily calorie needs are based on your body composition, activity level, and overall goals. Discuss this with your doctor before doing any diet.

#4: Alkaline diet

The alkaline diet is not as dangerous as other fad diets, however, there are many claims that are simply not supported by science. The basic idea of the alkaline diet is to, well, be basic. For something to be basic or alkaline, it must have a pH level of more than 7.

Usually, our blood stays within the pH levels of 7.35 to 7.45. Any deviations higher or lower than this can negatively affect the body. The alkaline diet aims to consume food and drinks that have higher pH to prevent acidification of the blood and body.

While studies have shown that cancer cells can create an acidic environment and that stomach acid can cause ulcers, this does not mean consuming alkaline food can cure or prevent these conditions. Our bodies already have several buffer systems that work to maintain the optimal blood pH. Overly acidic and alkaline substances can equally harm the body.

#5: Cracker diet

Rice is a staple food in many countries, especially the Philippines. Cutting down on white rice and refined sugar is encouraged by health experts in order to lose weight and prevent diseases like diabetes.

However, many Filipinos tend to replace rice with another starch which may not be healthier. For instance, one of the oldest fad diets is to only eat saltine crackers or biscuits, a boiled egg, and water. 

dangerous fad diets

What makes the cracker diet a dangerous fad diet is that it is nutritionally unbalanced. In addition, one pack of biscuits generally contains the same amount of calories, carbs, and protein as a half-cup serving of white rice. Meanwhile, pre-packaged crackers contain more fat, sodium, and less vitamins and minerals than the same serving of rice.

The Military Diet also includes eating saltine crackers and boiled eggs. However, it isn’t considered a dangerous fad diet because it lasts for only 3 days at a time and includes other types of food.

A safer and more sustainable alternative to the cracker diet would be to watch your rice servings and include more leafy vegetables as your source of carbohydrates. Boiled eggs are rich in protein but should be eaten in moderation as they also contain significant amounts of cholesterol. Drinking more water is always a good idea.

Key takeaways

At the end of the day, there’s no quick fix or magic bullet when it comes to fitness. While fad diets can show results after a few days or weeks, it is typically from water loss. Unfortunately, more often than not, the weight lost from fad diets quickly returns once you return to your old routine.

Long-term diet and exercise plans, as well as a positive mindset, are far better than dangerous fad diets. If you want to get in shape and lose weight, contact your doctor for a check up. You may also want to talk to a nutritionist, dietitian, and personal trainer to help you on your fitness journey.

Learn more about Healthy Eating here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Written by

Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD


Updated Jan 18, 2021

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