Popular Not-So-Good-for-You 'Diets'

(As featured in The Telegram on Monday, November 21st 2011)

I suppose it started about 100 years ago with 'No diet, no baths, no exercise. FAT - the enemy that is
shortening your life - BANISHED. How? With sanitized tapeworms – jar-packed". Yes that's the right
the tapeworm diet. Sure it's extreme, but it just goes to show how far people were willing to go to lose
weight. In recent years this diet has been making a comeback, along with a whole slew of others. Sure
the ones below don't seem as extreme, but from a science perspective don't veer far off the same path.

The Alkaline Diet
The thought here is that certain foods are alkaline (most fruits, vegetables and plant proteins) and
others are acidic (animal proteins, dairy, starchy vegetables, grains, coffee, etc). Acidic foods
apparently promote damage to the body and create chronic disease, whereas alkaline foods are
protective and 'healthier'. The modern diet is thought to be more acidic and hence when this isn't
accompanied by alkaline foods it can cause disease. If that wasn't odd enough, the other part to this
diet is measuring your pee. Bottom line? Looking specifically at the foods and measuring pee in this
manner are not reliable ways to prevent or manage chronic disease. There are no hard facts telling us
this diet can prevent or cure obesity, diabetes, heart disease or even cancer, which it is often promoted
as doing.

The Blood Type Diet
The blood type diet is, you guessed it, based on the eating the 'right' foods for your blood type.
Depending on your blood type you should and shouldn't eat certain things. As an example, those who
are type A are better suited to a vegetarian diet, type O should get a lot of animal proteins with less
grain and dairy, type B are susceptible to different diseases than A and O and should eat accordingly,
and somehow AB is a combination of the the recommendations for blood types A and B. What you eat
and how you exercise essentially depends on who you are. Bottom line here is blood type has little to
do with digestion or the rest of our body chemistry. Limiting specific foods and whole food groups can
also leave us nutritionally devoid. Similar to the first diet, this one too lacks the hard science and facts.

Paleolithic Diet
This one dates back to caveman days where people during that time ate a diet of wild plants and
animals. It consists mainly of lean meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, roots, and nuts; and excludes grains,
legumes, dairy products, salt, refined sugar, and processed oils. People at this time we apparently free
from disease and according to diet founders a diet like this today can help do the same. Free from
disease, probably not. Free from nutritional deficiency, absolutely not. Without dairy it would difficult
to get enough calcium and vitamin D through the diet, and grains and legumes help to give us fibre.
Remember nutritional deficiency and disease are linked.

Sure there are others out there like the cabbage soup diet, grapefruit diet, and whole other realms of
thinking like the formerly popular Atkins (eating low carb) and fruitarinism (where people eat only
fruit). It's actually been shown that consuming very low calories amounts in the form of twinkies can
help one lose weight. Why? Because you are consuming less than you are expending. Would it be
advisable to do this? Absolutely no. You might lose weight initially, but with the lack of nutrition
you run the risk of chronic disease for the future. When hearing about these diets and being enticed
to try ask yourself one question. Is the science there and does it make sense? Know the facts before
starting out on a diet like the ones above. Even though it's just food, we know that eating more of less
of something, or even nothing at all could have the potential to be dangerous.