visual representation of a dangerous diet fad

The 5 Most Dangerous Diet Fads

The diet industry is a multi-million dollar business that shows no signs of slowing down or stopping. It seems like each year there are a whole slew of new dieting products and books released on the market, and while some of them do offer legitimately good advice about dropping some pounds, many others can be downright dangerous. If you’re looking for a safe, healthy way to stay fit, then be sure to avoid these five crazy diet fads.

The HCG Diet

This diet fad is so dangerous that the FDA has actually become involved. As you probably already know, humans require a certain number of calories each day to maintain our most basic and vital bodily functions, and when those needs are not met our bodies go into “starvation mode.” This means our metabolism slows down drastically and attempts to preserve what little energy the body receives. It’s because of this starvation mode that extremely low-calorie diets are ineffective for weight loss, not to mention dangerous to our wellbeing!

The HCG diet attempts to circumvent this problem by using a pregnancy hormone that prevents our bodies from entering starvation mode. This hormone is administered through an injection, drops, or a spray, and it allows you to eat only 500 calories a day and still lose massive amounts of weight. None of this is approved by the FDA, and in fact, these hormones are not legally available over the counter, which calls into question what manufacturers are actually putting in these solutions.

The Ear-Stapling Diet

Ear stapling is a practice that is based on some of the principals found in acupuncture. By activating certain pressure points in the body (in this case the left tragus of the outer ear), it’s believed that you can reduce your food cravings. There is little to no scientific evidence that this practice will work, and because ear stapling is not a regulated practice, you run the risk of developing an infection or nerve damage from the procedure.

The Cotton Ball Diet

The “logic” behind the cotton ball diet is that because cotton balls have no caloric value, you can eat them and feel full without worrying about putting on pounds. The first mistake with this approach is thinking that most cotton balls are actually made out of cotton; unless you’re buying an organic brand, chances are your cotton balls are actually made of out synthetic polyester, which contains a whole host of chemicals that are dangerous for human consumption. Secondly, introducing non-food items to your digestive tract is a great way to create painful and potentially lethal obstructions in your bowels.

The Lemonade Diet

The lemonade diet, which is also referred to as the Master Cleanse, has been around for years, but thanks to multiple celebrity endorsements it continues to persist despite the obvious dangers associated with it. It’s billed as a 10-day “detox” that requires you to drink a mixture of water, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper—absolutely no solid food is allowed. On a diet like this, you’re obviously not getting the calories that your body needs, but you’re also putting yourself at risk for severe nutrient deficiencies. Because most of the weight you will lose with a program like this is water-based, you’re likely to quickly gain it all back once you end the program.

The Baby Food Diet

This diet may seem harmless at first glance—if babies eat baby food then surely it’s okay for adults as well, right? However, this isn’t the case. Aside from the fact that baby food has a consistency that repulses most full-grown people, it’s also very low-calorie (about 100 calories per jar) and can’t provide adults with the fiber or nutrients we need to survive.

Gwyneth Paltrow is a proponent of the baby food diet and was diagnosed with osteopenia, a condition that precedes osteoporosis and occurs due to a lack of vitamin D, in 2009. It’s believed that this diagnosis was due in part to her participation in a diet that is so low in nutrients.

Last Updated: June 29, 2016