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Expert Perspectives: Why Recent Diet Trends Should be Going Out of Style

Photo Courtesy Flickr User Jeanette Goodrich

Food and diet myths start when we are young: Swallowed watermelon seeds will grow the fruit in your stomach, if you eat too much of one food, your skin will change colors, and gum sticks around in your belly for up to seven years.

But it’s not just kids who get hung up on diet myths. Even adults are drawn in by seemingly healthy diets without understanding what they actually do to the body and overall health.

Recently, Time Magazine addressed seven popular diet trends. HealthTalk checked in with Mark Pereira Ph.D., associate professor for University of Minnesota School of Public Health, to get his take on some of these fads.

Pereira says many current diet trends are myths and a good diet will be based of off nutritional guidelines.

“The most common sense diet is based on the latest dietary guidelines for Americans,” said Pereira. “They are based on the best science from a panel of nutrition experts.  These guidelines are easy to understand, and the are not related to any single industry that may profit from them.”

One popular trend is cutting an entire food group, such as removing gluten. Pereira says there is no evidence avoiding gluten is beneficial if you do not have a diagnosed gluten allergy, and people may be focusing on a misguided strategy rather than more important goals.

 “All the nutrients have an important role in the body. If you cut certain nutrients altogether, rather than simply moderate their intake, there may be some important medical consequences.  Some of these can be predicted and other may be unintended consequences,” explained Pereira.

Before starting a new diet or jumping on a fad, it is important to understand the safety and nutritional value of the said plan. Pereira suggests asking a few questions before changing your habits:

  • Why are you making this particular change?
  • Will the diet be beneficial to your goals for health and well being?
  • Is the diet safe and realistic to sustain long-term?
  • Is there a scientific consensus about the potential harms or benefits of the diet?

As far as trends and fads go, most have not been shown to have beneficial long-term effects.

For the most sustainable and healthy change, Pereira recommends following the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which promotes staying away from fast food and participating in regular physical activity.

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