Nutritionists issue major warning as half of Brits say they would follow fad diets

Woman Eating Meat. Closeup of Healthy Hungry Girl With Beautiful Face, Red Lips Eats Delicious Grilled Meat. Female Mouth Biting Piece Of Tasty Beef Steak On Fork. Nutrition Concept. High Resolution
The 'carnivore diet' is one of the most popular fad diets on social media platforms. (Getty Images)

Over the past year, we’ve seen all sorts of odd-sounding diet trends emerging through social media - from the “baby food diet” to the “10-day egg diet”.

But, although fad diets have historically been discouraged by health professionals, many of us continue to be intrigued and tempted to try them.

New research by the British Nutrition Foundation has revealed that more than half (56%) of Britons admitted they would likely make changes to what they eat based on diets they’ve seen through platforms like Instagram and TikTok.

Over a quarter (27%) of those surveyed said they had recently seen information about diets and health on social media. For those who were keen on trying a viral diet, the top motivators were weight loss (40%) and improving fitness (36%).

But experts from the British Nutrition Foundation have issued a warning about such fad diets, as they are not based on scientific evidence, on top of being difficult to maintain. They have warned that some of the biggest social media diet trends could even pose a risk to health.

Different ways of cooking eggs
The '10-day egg diet' involves eating eggs with every meal in order to lose weight. (Getty Images)

Trends like the carnivore diet, the baby food diet, the 10-day egg diet and the cabbage soup diet have amassed billions of views on social media. For example, carnivore diet has more than 1.3 billion views on TikTok, while the cabbage soup diet hashtag has 13.4 million views and the egg diet hashtag garnering 109.7 million views.

Despite the huge amount of interest in these trends, nutritionists have said they are nutritionally unbalanced and tend to only be a “quick fix” rather than providing any long term benefits or weight loss results.

Bridget Benelam, nutrition communications manager at the British Nutrition Foundation, says: “Many of us will be thinking about making changes to our diet this January, but following what we see on social media may do more harm than good. Healthy, balanced diets are never going to go viral but they are the way to go to improve health.”

The viral diets explained:

Carnivore diet: This trend is also known as the ‘all-meat diet’ or ‘zero carb diet’. It involves consuming only animal products, excluding all plant-based foods.

10-day egg diet: Those who took part in this restrictive diet ate only eggs for every single meal, along with low-carb snacks including fruit, vegetables and protein.

Baby food diet: This is exactly what it sounds like. It involves replacing one or two meals or snacks a day with baby food in order to lose weight quickly.

Cabbage soup diet: Another restrictive diet that calls for eating large amounts of cabbage soup for seven days. While it is low in fat and high in fibre, and can result in quick weight loss, the weight can easily be regained when you go back to a normal, balanced diet.

‘Ditch the fads’

It’s tempting to try a fad diet if you are keen to lose weight quickly or kickstart health and fitness-related New Year goals. The British Nutrition Foundation’s survey found that respondents’ top diet concerns were having too much sugar (21%), eating too many calories (20%) and not getting enough fruit and vegetables (15%).

Many factors in modern life also make it difficult to eat a healthy and balanced diet all the time. The top three reasons cited as making it hard to eat healthily included busy lives (19%), affordability (17%) and being tempted by unhealthy takeaways (12%).

But people are still urged to stay away from fad diets, as they often don’t help you maintain a healthy weight and can even encourage the development of eating disorders. The British Dietetic Association adds that they can “affect our relationship with food, leading to feelings of failure rather than developing the skills and confidence to manage diet and weight in a healthy manner”.

Benelam adds: “Times are tough and it’s not always easy to make healthy choices. This New Year, ditch the fads and pick just a few small changes that you can stick to.

“Try and add one more portion of vegetables to your dinner each day, swap sugary snacks for fruit or choose wholegrain bread or pasta. If you can keep these changes up then they can make a real difference to your health over time,” she recommends.

Watch: Common mistakes people make when trying to lose weight

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