Diets That Are Most Dangerous To Your Health

Posted on April 15, 2014 and updated May 30, 2014 in Health Tips, Life Insurance Canada News 7 min read

Despite the rave reviews that promise extreme weight loss and euphoric feelings, trendy diets, detoxes, and cleanses are never really an ideal way to get healthy. Danielle Battram is an associate professor with the Division of Food and Nutritional Sciences at Brescia University College. She explains, “All of these fad diets tend to be restrictive… My radar goes up on that because then I question, ‘Are you getting everything you need?'” With that concept in mind, here’s a list of hazardous diets to avoid — despite their amazing claims.

Diet
Losing weight at the expense of your health. Is it
worth it?
 

The Master Cleanse

Made famous by celebrities like Beyoncé and Gwyneth Paltrow, the Master Cleanse is a liquid cleanse that often leads to major weight loss results. The only liquids you consume for ten days (or more) are lemonade drinks, made with fresh lemons, water, cayenne, and maple syrup. On top of this, you drink laxative teas twice a day.

Although this diet has been the subject of much scrutiny and has even been parodied by Mindy Kaling on an episode of The Office, people are keen to try it because of its promised effects. The book that dieters are supposed to read while cleansing, The Complete Master Cleanse by Tom Woloshyn, claims, “The Lemonade Diet is simple and powerful. The recipe takes only minutes to learn, and when done correctly the cleanse is surprisingly easy and completely safe.”

Evidently, if you manage to stick to this diet, you will lose weight — and probably a drastic amount. Doctor Battram’s biggest issue with this cleanse in particular is the weight loss itself. With diets like this, she warns that you can become deficient because you’re eliminating nutrients from your diet. Stephanie Chung attempted the diet a few years ago but felt so horrible she couldn’t even finish. “I felt extremely tired and hungry. I was also angry a lot of the time,” she said.

Lemons
Could you drink almost nothing but lemon juice
for ten days in a row?

The Master Cleanse is the ultimate fad diet that’s hazardous to your health because it eliminates whole food groups, messes with your metabolism, and basically starves you — which means you’re not ingesting any of the nutrients the body needs. The Master Cleanse states that it will help balance your body’s pH levels and rid your body of parasites, among other goals it will “help” your body achieve. “The body doesn’t need that much help,” says Battram, “The body likes to be at the pH level it likes to be at.”

Dr. Joshi’s Holistic Detox

Unlike the Master Cleanse, Dr. Joshi’s Detox avoids acidity. Its main argument is that the detox will help balance your pH level to its ideal state, which will lead your body to eliminate more toxins. The detox lasts 21 days and is rather restrictive: no processed foods or sugar, no fruit (except bananas), and no gluten.

Devan Carlsen completed the three-week cleanse. She explained, “During the detox, I was hungry, but after the first week, it was fine and I got used to it. Afterwards, I felt good because I lost weight.” Although she was glad to shed a few pounds, Carlsen realized that any diet barring fruits makes little sense, and that was the biggest issue for her. Because you cut out bad foods like ice cream, chips, and chocolate, you will likely lose weight and feel a little lighter.

Vegetable

“The benefits of detoxing will not outweigh the benefits of fruits and vegetables,” Dr. Battram says adamantly. “[It gets] really obnoxious when you start eliminating fruits and veggies,” she laughs. Dr. Battram explains that Canadians are much better at eating fruit than vegetables, so her concern is that they won’t get enough nutrients through vegetables alone.

The Palaeolithic Diet

“It’s on my hit list right now,” Dr. Battram laughs again. The Palaeolithic Diet essentially eliminates two food groups: grains and dairy. Dr. Battram reiterates one of the problems she has with restrictive diets like this — by eliminating grain, for example, you eliminate a big source of fibre. This diet consists mainly of meat, fish, vegetables, and fruits and is based on the concept of eating like a caveman.

Dr. Battram points out that milk is a great source of calcium and its saturated fat isn’t as bad as red meat’s fat. This means that although you’re eliminating milk and its fats, you’re actually increasing your intake of saturated fat from meats.

Meat
Roast beef.
True cavemen of course prefer mammoth meat.

The South Beach Diet

The South Beach Diet has three phases. Phase 1 focuses on eliminating sugars, processed carbs, fruits, and some vegetables and lasts two weeks. Phase 2 reintroduces most fruits and vegetables and some grains, and it lasts however long is needed to lose weight. Phase 3 is considered the “maintenance” aspect of the diet, and it should be implemented into your lifestyle following the diet. The problem with the elimination aspect of this diet is that your body naturally wants food, and if it senses you’re not going to give it the food it requires, it will slow down your metabolism and go into starvation mode. According to Dr. Battram, “If you mess with your metabolism, you might not get it back.”

Diet 1
Getting in shape doesn’t mean you
have to starve yourself.

Juice Cleanses

Yet again, the primary problem with juice cleanses is that it eliminates whole food groups. Although your body — and your stomach, in particular — is resilient, it’s still sensitive. Not only are you depriving your body of fuel, but you are also potentially slowing down your metabolism and causing your body to lose muscle and not fat, as you are likely unable to exercise as much as you would while eating real meals. Sometimes with cleanses, you’ll have the unintended benefit of being more hydrated than before, because you’re filling yourself up with water. But other than that, there’s no evidence of what you’re even detoxing from your body, according to Dr. Battram. The marketing around cleanses, with their outrageous weight loss claims and seemingly healthy benefits, is extremely well played, but as Dr. Battram says, “If we could take a [magic] pill, we all would.”

avatar
Brian Kerns
Brian Kerns

How interesting it is to see the lengths one will go to achieve the ultimate and sometimes elusive slim figure. Diet need not be a four letter word. However, having said that, one should consider the long term. All diets work on the one basic principle; and that is loose weight. But, not all diets teach you how to maintain the weight loss and adapt a healthy lifestyle and count on the fact that you will become a repeat offender and come back and spend a bunch more money and repeat the cycle again and their by increase their profitable… Read more »

Ash
Ash

Good article. It’s sad the things people are willing to do in their desperation to get thin quick. Growing up I watched my mom try one trend diet after another, and one of the major problems with them is that as soon as it’s over and you go back to your same lifestyle and diet, you gain all that weight right back. Also, I don’t trust the paleolithic diet either, mainly because I’m studying evolution and have a hard time swallowing that our bodies haven’t adjusted to our changing diets since the paleolithic!

Lisa Pearson Holton
Lisa Pearson Holton

I agree with a lot of this article! Extreme elimination diets are NOT healthy! Your body needs a variety of fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean meats and/or beans/nuts, low fat dairy, etc. Don’t deprive your body of something unless you have an allergy or intolerance to a particular food. Instead, eliminate obviously unhealthy food, processed junk, sugary junk, fried foods, etc. As for detoxing, my opinion is: Water is the ultimate detoxing! Drink lots of water! Your kidneys, liver, etc will take care of the rest of you don’t deprive them of water!

JohnnyL
JohnnyL

Great article! Many people do weird things in pursuit of getting thinner! You could have also mentioned the Dukan diet, that’s very similar to the South Beach diet, but is more focused on proteins and it basically cuts off everything else, which can’t be good for the metabolism.

LSM Insurance
LSM Insurance

Thanks for the comment, Johnny. As you’ve pointed out, any drastic interventions to your nutrition are not good for your health. Getting thinner doesn’t always equal getting healthier.