My watch list  

Food faddism

Food faddism and fad diet refer to idiosyncratic diets and eating patterns.

Note: the term "food fad" has an alternate positive connotation, namely, short term popularity among restaurants and consumers of an ingredient, dish, or preparation technique.



A fad diet is believed by its practitioners to improve health. It is often promoted by parties that publish books about the diet, or sell specialized ingredients or supplements that are part of the diet, despite being unconfirmed by legitimate scientific studies. A fad diet may do nothing at all, or even have an adverse result if it is nutritionally unbalanced or otherwise unhealthy. Weight loss experts such as Richard Simmons, who tried numerous diets in his youth at the cost of his health, strongly discourages them as not only unhealthy, but also counter-productive in the long term.

Belief in fad diets by adherents is often irrational. Many individuals who adhere to fad diets will not consider recommendations made by nutritionists and dieticians[1].

There are three categories of food fads. Some food fads incorporate a combination of categories:[1]

  1. The virtue of a particular food or food group is exaggerated and purported to cure specific diseases, and is therefore incorporated as a primary constituent of an individual’s diet.
  2. Foods are eliminated from an individual’s diet because they are viewed as harmful.
  3. An emphasis is placed on eating certain foods to express a particular lifestyle.

Zen macrobiotic diets were once considered to be the most dangerous type of food faddism[1]. George Ohsawa, in his book Zen Macrobiotics, promoted a 10-stage diet to create a spiritual awakening or rebirth. The nutritional plan claimed to prevent and cure all diseases. The 10 stages of dietary restriction gradually eliminated certain foods such as animal products, fruits, and vegetables; emphasis was placed on whole-grain cereals. Each stage had a recommended percentage of each type of food group to include in the diet. By the tenth stage, cereals constituted 100% of the dietary intake. Nowadays, such extreme guidance is not found in macrobiotic diets, though.

Extreme faddist diets often lack the energy, suitable protein, fat-soluble vitamins, and some minerals that are essential for growing children. Parents forcing children to adhere to fad diets to the point of severe nutritional disorders is considered a form of child abuse.[2]

Scientific view

Many forms of food faddism are supported by pseudo-scientific claims. Fad diets claim to be scientific but do not follow the scientific method in establishing their validity. Among the scientific shortcomings of the claims made in support of fad diets:

  • not being open to revisions, whereas real science is[3].
  • observations that prompt an explanations are used as evidence of the validity of the explanation[3].

Some in the scientific community comment that food faddism is born of ignorance about basic scientific dietary facts. The evidence supporting weight loss enhanced by anything other than caloric restriction is lacking[4]. There is also a lack of evidence to support that fad diets produce sustainable weight loss. Fad diets generally ignore or refute what is known about fundamental associations between dietary pattern and human health[4].

List of fad diets

Diets commonly accused of faddism:

Some diets, like Atkins and Weight Watchers, have actually been vindicated, but may prove risky if practised without proper knowledge.

See also

  • Diet
  • Nutrition
  • Dieting
  • Pseudoscience
  • Quackery
  • Healthy diet
  • Food guide pyramid
  • Food groups
  • Obesity
  • Junk Food
  • Fast Food
  • Sugar crash


  1. ^ a b c McBean, Lois D. M.S., R.D. and Elwood W. Speckmann Ph.D. (1974). Food faddism: a challenge to nutritionists and dietitians. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol 27, 1071-1078.
  2. ^ Roberts, I.F., West, R.J., Ogilvie, D, and M J Dillon. (1979). Malnutrition in infants receiving cult diets: a form of child abuse. British Medical Journal: 1(6159): 296–298.
  3. ^ a b Carey, S (2004). A beginner's guide to the scientific method. Third Edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning.
  4. ^ a b Katz, D.L., (2003). Pandemic obesity and the contagion of nutritional nonsense. Public Health Reviews: 31(1):33-44.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Food_faddism". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
Your browser is not current. Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 does not support some functions on Chemie.DE