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What is a Fad Diet and Should You Try One?

Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
Dr. Eric Venn-Watson’s Highlights
  • Fad diets are trendy diets that claim there’s a quick, easy way to lose weight that doesn’t involve eating right and exercising regularly. 
  • These diets don’t usually work, because they’re extremely restrictive and can’t be continued for the long-term. They can also be dangerous in that you’re not getting the nutrients that you need. 
  • One popular fad of the past involves cutting out all fats and dairy products, but research shows that saturated fatty acids like C15:0 can actually be extremely beneficial. If you’re not getting these fatty acids in your standard diet, it may be worth including a supplement like fatty15.

Fad diets are nothing new.  We can trace their origins back to the 1920’s, when the Cigarette Diet was introduced by tobacco companies with the tagline “Reach for a Lucky, instead of a sweet!” 

Thankfully, that diet is now defunct, but the ideology behind fad diets is still very much alive: there’s a quick and easy way to lose weight and it doesn’t include eating a balanced diet and engaging in physical exercise long term.  This false logic has led many astray.  

A fad diet is a diet that is currently on-trend in the weight loss world.  Fad diets overpromise and underdeliver, usually claiming rapid weight loss by some means of extreme caloric restriction. Perhaps you remember the Cabbage Soup diet; weight loss by means of eating nothing but cabbage soup for lunch and dinner.  The problem with fad diets is that they typically don’t work long-term. 

This is because fad diets aren’t designed to be sustainable.  They tend to be extremely restrictive in terms of calories and nutrients. Therefore, it’s not only difficult to sustain these types of diets long-term, it also isn’t great for your overall health. Regardless of how unrealistic a fad diet can be, if enough people jump on the bandwagon, it will gain popularity.  For instance, a diet that consists of only low-calorie cabbage soup for lunch and dinner will likely cause a person to lose weight rapidly, which can entice others to follow suit.

Unfortunately, when the dieter returns to their normal method of eating, the weight they lost from the dietary restrictions they had usually returns along with it.

Why Fad Diets Don’t Work

Historically, fad diets simply do not work. There are many reasons that support this.

  • (Un)Sustainability. Ideally, no one should ever really be on a “weight loss“ diet for more than a few months at a time. Weight loss diets usually consist of a restricted amount of calories (some as low as 800 per day), which can be unhealthy if the person remains on the diet long term. In fact, the recommended daily caloric intake for women is between 1600-2400 calories per day. These diets are also not sustainable because they are usually hard to follow. It is difficult to restrict your eating to a degree that produces a substantial amount of weight loss over a short period of time. The likelihood of a person being able to maintain these types of diet is unrealistic.
  • Lack of nutrients. Another thing that makes fad diets unsuccessful and somewhat dangerous is the lack of nutrients that sometimes accompany them. If a person is eating only cabbage soup for two out of three meals per day, there’s no way for them to get the proper amount of vitamins and minerals they need to keep healthy. Even if a person were to take a multivitamin in connection with this diet, it would not make up for the lack of nutrients obtained from food. Another example is a diet that eliminates one particular food group; i.e. low-carbohydrate diets and low-fat diets.  A healthy, balanced diet includes carbohydrates, fats, fruits, and vegetables. 
  • Plateaus. Anytime you begin restricting your diet, you will likely see an initial weight loss. The majority of this will be water weight, which is easily gained back as soon as you return to your previous diet. After an initial loss of water weight, you may lose a few pounds quickly, but weight then becomes more difficult to lose over the following weeks. You may then realize that your weight has leveled off.  This is because your body has become accustomed to eating and burning the amount of calories, making it difficult for you to lose any more weight.

The Low Fat/No Fat Diet Dilemma

Of all fad diets we’ve been presented with, the low fat diet has probably had the longest running in popularity, with perhaps the worst health outcomes.  The low-fat diet was first introduced in the 1940’s and 1950’s as a means of preventing cardiovascular disease in individuals who were at high risk of developing heart disease.

By the late 1970’s, the federal government had given advice to more than 220 million Americans:  eat less fat to maintain optimal health.  This meant that now everyone, not just those people at high risk of heart disease, were taking fat out of their diets, when it wasn’t really necessary.  This had a huge (negative) impact on our overall health as a society.

This diet, originally created to help heart patients, became very popular as a means of weight loss in the 1980’s and 1990’s.  We bought skim milk and margarine and demonized full-fat anything.  Numerous manufacturers began creating foods with the fat removed.

The problem is, when you remove something from food, you have to add something else to make sure the food retains its flavor and consistency. What was typically added to food was sugar. This resulted in a diet that was very low in fat and very high in unrefined carbohydrates. 

Since the 1977 dietary guidelines,, there’s been an increase in:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Metabolic syndrome (a cluster of conditions, including obesity, insulin resistance, and high cholesterol - now present in 1 of 3 people globally - that puts one at higher risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke)
  • NAFLD/NASH (a liver disease now present in 1 in 4 people globally and soon to be the leading cause of liver transplants)
  • Cardiovascular disease (especially among younger people)
  • Pancreatic cancer

This loss of fat in our diets hasn’t made us healthier, it’s made us sicker. The thing is, not all fats are created equally

Just as our bodies need omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, our bodies can benefit from other fats as well; in fact, an increasing body of science supports that our body might actually need specific fats, like C15:0, to stay healthy.

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What is C15:0?

C15:0 is a fatty acid that a growing body of science supports is the first essential fatty acid to be discovered in 90 years.  C15:0 is an odd-chain saturated fat found most commonly in full fat dairy products, like butter, whole fat milk and cheese, which probably means you probably haven’t been getting much in your diet. 

How did we discover the need for C15:0?  Surprisingly, it all started with our large-brained long-lived mammalian friends - dolphins

Veterinarians working to improve dolphin health  discovered that populations eating fish that contained a high level of C15:0 had a lower risk of having chronic, aging-associated conditions (like metabolic syndrome and anemia) compared to another population of dolphins that ate fish containing little to no C15:0.  When the second population of dolphins were given fish with C15:0, their aging related conditions stabilized, and their cellular health improved. 

This led researchers to explore the relevance of C15:0 to human health, and the results were as you might expect: odd-chain saturated fats, like C15:0, were associated with positive health outcomes related to:*

  • Immune function
  • Heart health
  • Metabolism
  • Red blood cell health
  • Liver health

With this growing body of global evidence, it’s becoming more apparent that C15:0 is important to our general and cellular health, and can be essential to helping us stay healthy and aging on our own terms.* 

It’s now easier than ever to include C15:0 in your life, regardless of your diet.  Fatty15 is a daily dietary supplement that contains only one ingredient -- FA15™ -- a pure powder and vegan-friendly form of C15:0.  Fatty15 includes all the C15:0 your body needs to help support your general and cellular health, allowing you to continue doing the things you love to do, especially as you get older.*

Fad diets come and go, but our nutritional needs remain.  A diet that eliminates an entire food group (like fat) is not likely to be a diet that will allow you to lose weight and keep it off, and it’s now understood that it doesn’t help you maintain optimum nutritional health. Skip the fads, eat sensibly, exercise regularly, and take a daily supplement that supports your body at the cellular level, and you’ll find sustainable health that fad diets don’t offer.







Profile photo for Eric Venn-Watson

Eric Venn-Watson M.D.

Eric is a physician, U.S. Navy veteran, and Co-founder and COO of Seraphina Therapeutics. Eric served over 25 years as a Navy and Marine Corps physician, working with the special forces community to improve their health and fitness. Seraphina Therapeutics is a health and wellness company dedicated to advancing global health through the discovery of essential fatty acids and micronutrient therapeutics.

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