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Food faddism

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Food faddism and fad diet are terms which refer to the tendency for idiosyncratic diets and eating patterns. A fad diet is supposed and promoted to improve health but may do nothing at all, or even have the opposite results if it is nutritionally unbalanced and unconfirmed by scientific studies.

There are three categories of food fads [1]: 1. One virtue of a particular food or food group is exaggerated and purported to cure specific diseases, and is therefore incorporated as the main 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. Some food fads may incorporate a combination of categories.

Zen macrobiotic diets are considered to be the most dangerous type of food faddism[1]. George Oshawa, in his book Zen Macrobiotics, promoted a 10-stage diet to create a spiritual awakening or rebirth. The nutritional plan claims to prevent and cure all diseases. The 10 stages of dietary restriction gradually eliminate certain foods such as animal products, fruits, and vegetables; emphasis is placed on whole-grain cereals. Each stage has a recommended percentage of each type of food group to include in the diet. By the tenth stage, cereals constitute 100% of the dietary intake.

In some cases, food faddism is considered a form of child abuse. An article in the British Medical Journal provides case studies of four infants who suffered from severe nutritional disorders as a result of parental food faddism[2] Extreme faddist diets are often lacking in total energy, suitable protein, fat-soluble vitamins, and some minerals that are essential for growing children.

Food faddism is common in New Age spirituality - compare Breatharianism.

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. One way in which food faddism can be identified as being pseudoscience is that the findings of genuine science are open to revisions, whereas pseudo-scientific claims are not[3]. Another way to verify if a fad diet is pseudoscience is that the observations made that prompt an explanation are also used as evidence to confirm the same explanation[3]. Many individuals who adhere to fad diets will not consider recommendations made by nutritionists and dieticians[1].

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]. In doing so they lend themselves to the arena of pseudoscience.

Some of the scientific community say that food faddism is merely born of ignorance about basic scientific dietary facts. Weight loss experts like Richard Simmons, who tried numerous methods at the cost of his health in his youth, strongly discourage them as not only unhealthy, but also counter-productive in the long term.

Diets commonly accused of faddism:

  • Atkins diet
  • Breatharian
  • South Beach Diet
  • Nutrisystem
  • Weight Watchers
  • Grapefruit Diet
  • Jenny Craig
  • Zen macrobiotic diet

See also

  • Diet
  • Nutrition
  • Dieting
  • Dieting myth
  • Pseudoscience
  • Quackery
  • New Age
  • Healthy diet
  • Food guide pyramid
  • Obesity
  • Junk Food
  • Fast Food


  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.

External links

  • Food Faddism Medicdirect - Comprehensive UK Health Information
  • Nutrition Quackery/Faddism Columbia College
  • How to Spot a Crazy and Ridiculous Weight Loss Method
  • -- a humor site reviewing some of the more common fad diets
  • The Lose Weight Diet -- the "anti-fad" weight loss diet plan


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