Behind the big fad diets

Last Updated 31 January 2016, 18:29 IST

Food industry seems to be oozing with trends. While food art is creating a statement of its own, new diet regimes are mushrooming and finding many takers. Unfortunately, there is also the tendency among many youngsters to follow a fad diet and not a balanced one. Smart advertising strategies and the visibility of such fad diets on social media spaces are contributing to its popularity.

Diet regimes that are currently screaming from the rooftops are the ‘gluten-free’ (a diet that lacks protein essentially found in wheat and related grains like barley and rye), ‘low-carb’, ‘low-fat’, ‘the new techie’ and ‘detox’ ones. Although some people need to follow these diet regimes, most do so for instant weight loss. People who follow such diets lose weight really quickly, but they gain it back since they go back to their old eating habits. Such diets also cause side-effects such as headaches and dizzy spells, which is why most experts advise one to consult a doctor or nutritionist, go on a regular diet plan and lose calories by day before starting any diet plan.

Silky Mahajan, a dietician, explains that many of her customers assume that they can follow certain diet regimes as they are popular. “People believe that it’s easy to lose weight by sticking to such fad or crash diets. It’s interesting that they are called crash diets as they come crashing down after a while. If a diet regime has worked for one person, it may not work for another because each one’s body type is different. For example, sticking to a gluten-free diet and eliminating wheat from your body altogether means one is missing out on a number of amino acids. Gluten is present in rice as well and if everyone is so gluten-sensitive, they should stop eating rice too.”

Another fad diet, which has hit the IT space, is the ‘techie’ diet, where professionals consume liquid meals such as ‘scmoylent’ and ‘soylent’ that are rich in protein and come in the form of powder. Silky adds that though such substitutes may control hunger, they are no substitute for nutritious meals. The secret that lies tucked away behind these diets regimes is the massive amount of money that big food corporations make from these ‘healthy scams’.

Dr Ramesh, a bariatrics surgeon for AV and Vikram Hospitals, says that not all body types are suited for the same diet regime. He explains why such diets are catching on. “If a doctor advises a specific treatment to a patient which works for him, others think that it would do the same for them as well. In our society, people help even if they aren’t asked to and many others blindly take free advice.

There is too much faith and trust. Commercials and celebrity endorsements for items like gluten-free products and energy bars have also led people to believe that they are sensitive to gluten.” However, he explains that a small population is allergic to gluten and tend to suffer from celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome and rashes.
Shwetha, the owner of ‘The Gluten-Free Bread Boutique’, says that gluten sensitivity is gradual and comes in various forms such as headaches and stomach cramps. She understood the term ‘gluten-free’ eight years back, when her friend had come from the West and had a tough time in buying gluten-free products for her autistic child.

She says, “It is mandatory in the West to have gluten-free products in every store. I tried baking a few products to help my friend. It was tough initially as it is at the other end of the spectrum from mainstream baking. Eventually I started a boutique where I have about 10 customers a week.” She uses a combination of eight different items to make her products mimic the elasticity that gluten-rich products contain. She adds, “Many people completely go gluten-free for six weeks as an experiment, to understand their body and see if it works. There is always a floating crowd for gluten-free diets. Those who are following it for a fad will let go for a month. I, personally have tried it religiously and have found that it has worked for me.”

As one’s health depends on social and environmental factors, doctors advise people to see to it that they follow have a balanced diet as the general Indian diet is rich in carbohydrates and fats and low in proteins. Ramesh adds, “There are certain diets that are approved by World Health Organisation that are rich in proteins and low on fats that are healthy.”

(Published 31 January 2016, 15:36 IST)

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