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Impact of Fad Diets on Metabolism: Discursive Essay

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Fad Diets: Worse for Health than Being Overweight?

All around the world each day, people fret over the numbers on the scale, the size of their clothes, and whether they went over their daily calorie limits. Everything from carbs, fats, and proteins to strict lists of “okay” foods are limited and closely monitored in hopes of losing weight while religiously following the newest diet promising quick results. Dozens upon dozens of well-known diets all have different reasonings for their supposed rapid and long-lasting success, but many appeal to a common concern: speeding up your metabolism for lasting results to keep off weight. However, with so many fad diets so different from one another claiming to have the same effect down to the human cells, it raises the question: what does impact the metabolic rate? Do fad diets really speed up the metabolism and have the lasting impacts they advertise?

Calorie and Food Restricting Fad Diets

Our weight is always looped back to our metabolism when we feel that we’ve been watching what we’re eating, getting moderate exercise, and still not seeing results. We like to say that our bodies just can’t keep up with using the energy of the controlled portions that we do eat, claiming our metabolism is just so slow. Many people take that even further and blame their slow metabolism on their genetics, inherited from generations before them. Oftentimes, no one really asks their doctor about whether they think a slow metabolism is to blame and just take adjusting their diet into their own hands, gearing towards fad diets promising an immediate boost to help their body burn through food so that they can eat as they please after the diet takes hold. Such diets include things like the “cabbage soup diet”, consisting of one specific food group and mainly—you guessed it—cabbage soup, and the “Master Cleanse”, a diet of only juice made with lemon or lemonade, cayenne pepper, maple syrup, and sometimes tea. Somehow, both of these drastically different diets claim to have similar effects, along with many other diets that sound too good to be true or too terrible to try. What many people looking to take a quick and easy route to weight loss don’t realize is that many of these fad diets have the opposite effect, lack sustainability, or are simply more damaging for your health than being overweight.

Limited calories, eating only particular “approved” foods, liquid cleansing, and fasting are common themes across fad diets promising the quickest, longest-lasting results with only a short period of actual dieting. However, these are often the most dangerous and harmful diets, promoting eating far fewer calories than a person needs to function on a daily basis and starving the body of the well-balanced amount of nutrients it needs. Sadly, this is what people are told boosts metabolism and they simply believe what they’re told, never looking into the misconceptions and myths surrounding how the body burns through glucose. Three especially significant common misconceptions include the idea that dieting is only about watching calories, particular foods significantly increase metabolism, and that fasting diets are a safe way to increase metabolism and “cleanse” (Breeding, 2018). While it is recommended to keep an eye on the number of calories eaten throughout the day, nutrients, vitamins, and minerals also matter since the body struggles to break down too many carbs or proteins and the body needs a balanced diet to properly function and undergo all its functions and processes (Breeding, 2018). While some particular foods have been found to increase metabolism, praised by the fitness gurus of social media and TV (for example, coffee, spicy peppers (chili, cayenne, jalapeno, etc.), green tea, and apple cider vinegar), it’s still not healthy nor nutritionally valuable to eat only certain foods, especially foods that commonly flush the body out, irritate digestive systems, or are simply hard to keep down. The increase that they give the metabolism is so slight and short-lived that it’s not really worth choking down apple cider vinegar or tearing up your gut with chili peppers every day just to try to lose weight the quick and easy way (Breeding, 2018). Lastly, fasting. Fasting follows the same idea, as limiting your body of the nutrients, minerals, and vitamins it needs is only harmful and poorly thought out but also leads your body to do the opposite as fasting intends: it slows your metabolism as your body clings to the stored energy in fat, entering a starvation mode (Brown, 2018). By the time the fasting period is over, the body hasn’t even left the “starvation mode” which oftentimes results in weight gain or simply overeating because of prolonged hunger and binging (Breeding, 2018).

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Carbohydrate Limiting Fad Diets

In the past decade, fad diets like Keto, Paleo, and the famous Atkins diet have all been very popular, preaching consuming very low grams of carbohydrates and high protein or fats instead. Many praise the low carb diets, as they are geared to turn metabolism off of burning carbs for fuel and towards proteins or fats, reasoning that high protein diets are better for you than high carb and that if your body is using fats for fuel, it will burn stubborn body fat. Despite the reasonable, sound logic people appeal to, the diets certainly have their own side effects hiding in the shadows.

In 2001, the American Journal of Cardiology published an issue by Dr. Margo A. Denke concerning the effects on the body of diets with very low carb restrictions and a high-protein/high-fat goal. Denke debunked the idea that these diets switch what your body uses for fuel and suggested that the real secret to the weight loss is only dropped water weight and ketones that can’t be reabsorbed pushing sodium and more fluid out of the body (p. 59). With less water in the body, dieters experience rapid weight loss and shrinking stomachs as their bloating decreases and they praise fad diets without a clue that it’s only a temporary initial effect (Denke, 2001, p. 59). The journal article also stated several complications that have appeared in children who followed the Keto diet to try to lessen the effects of epilepsy, with side effects ranging from kidney stones and dehydration to osteoporosis, and even suggested that ketogenic diets change the functioning of the brain and nervous system (Denke, 2001, p. 60). While diets like Paleo and Keto seem to have much more sound reasoning than things like juice and tea cleanses, they have their own dangers and questionable long-term effects on the body. Not only that, but they lack sufficient proof of having a long-term effect on metabolism and consistent, sustainable results from start to finish.

Fad Exercising

Almost every article debunking fad diets or metabolism myths reaches the same conclusion: lose weight and improve your metabolism with a healthy, balanced diet and exercise. However, the question of how much exercise remains. Fad diets often push for restricted diet and extreme exercise or severely restricted calories and minimal exercise (if any) during the dieting or fasting period. Some even push “key moves” to target specific areas of the body to melt away fat, but how successful are these exercises? How often do you really need to hit the gym to boost your metabolism? According to Herman Pontzer, with the Hunter College in New York as an evolutionary anthropologist, it’s not as much as many fad diets incorporate. Pontzer and his colleagues studied the Hadza of Tanzania, a hunter-gatherer population, and found that they used only slightly more calories than those in Western industrialized nations on a daily basis (Burrell, 2019). This questions everything people have come to believe about highly active lifestyles and what it means for metabolism, shaking ideas that extreme physical exercise is necessary to boost metabolism or that it has such a pivotal impact. Instead, resting metabolism was suggested as a possible reason behind the lack of difference in the caloric needs for different activity levels in daily life, which in turn draws the conclusion that resting metabolism impacts weight loss more than using exercise to increase activity levels from day to day.


Many diets, believed to be true and reasonable due to myths about what increases metabolism, only result in weight gain through restriction and deprivation of needed nutrients through fasting, cleansing, or cutting out entire food groups. Even diets well known to have sensible logic and to appeal to those who scoff at diets consisting of cabbage soup or grapefruits have been debunked as fluff and sugar-coating over what’s really just a loss of water weight and decreased bloating. Also, extreme exercise to compensate for extra calories taken in is ineffective, as highly active lifestyles have shown a minimal difference in daily caloric needs. Instead, what would be most beneficial for increasing metabolism and resulting in a healthy lifestyle is simply balanced eating with mindfulness to individual nutritional needs with regular moderate exercise and activity, but with the main focus put on balanced nutritional foods.

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Impact of Fad Diets on Metabolism: Discursive Essay. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 8, 2023, from
“Impact of Fad Diets on Metabolism: Discursive Essay.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022,
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