Seven Ways to Spot Fad Diets

by Dr. Stephen Chaney

“Lose five to ten pounds in your first week.” “Melt the fat away.” “Clinically proven.” The latest diets sound so tempting, but how do you really know which might work and which are just scams designed to separate you from your hard-earned money?

chaney-fad-diet-ringmasterIf It Sounds too Good to be True

I think it was P. T. Barnum who said “There’s a Sucker Born Every Minute.” That’s particularly true in the diet world where hucksters seem to be all around us – especially this time of year.

You’ve seen the weight loss ads touting:

  • Pills or powders that suppress your appetite or magically prevent you from absorbing calories.
  • Fat burners that melt the pounds away.
  • New discoveries (juices, beans, foods) that make weight loss effortless.
  • The one simple thing you can do that will finally banish those extra pounds forever.


You already know that most of those ads can’t be true. You don’t want to be a sucker. But, the ads are so compelling:

  • Many of them quote “scientific studies” to “prove” that their product or program works.
  • Their testimonials feature people just like you getting fantastic results from their program. [You can do wonders with “computer enhanced” photographs.]
  • Many of those products are endorsed by well known doctors on their TV shows or blogs. [It is amazing what money can buy.]

So it is easy to ask yourself: “Could it be true?” “Could this work for me?”

Fortunately, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has stepped up to the plate to give you some guidance. Just in time for weight loss season, they have issued a list of seven claims that are in fact too good to be true. If you hear any of these claims, you should immediately recognize it as a fad diet and avoid it.

7 Easy Ways to Spot Fad Diets

Here are the seven statements in ads that the FTC considers as “red flags” for fad diets that should be avoided:

1)    Causes weight loss of two pounds or more a week for a month or more without changing your diet and exercise routine.

2)    Causes substantial weight loss no matter what or how much you eat.

3)    Causes permanent weight loss without lifestyle change even after you stop using the product.

4)    Blocks absorption of fat or calories to enable you to lose substantial weight.

5)    Safely enables you to lose more than 3 pounds per week for more than 4 weeks.

6)    Causes substantial weight loss for all users.

7)    Causes substantial weight loss by wearing a product on your body or rubbing it on your skin.

I’m sure you have heard some of these claims before. You may have actually been tempted to try the products or program. You should know that the FTC said that it considers these to be “Gut Check” claims that simply can’t be true.

The Bottom Line

There are no magical pills or potions that will make the pounds melt away. You need to change your diet, change your activity level and make significant lifestyle changes if you want to achieve long term weight control.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Dr. ChaneyAbout The Author
Dr. Chaney has a BS in Chemistry from Duke University and a PhD in Biochemistry from UCLA. He is Professor Emeritus from the University of North Carolina where he taught biochemistry and nutrition to medical and dental students for 40 years.Dr. Chaney won numerous teaching awards at UNC, including the Academy of Educators “Excellence in Teaching Lifetime Achievement Award”. Dr Chaney also ran an active cancer research program at UNC and published over 100 scientific articles and reviews in peer-reviewed scientific journals. In addition, he authored two chapters on nutrition in one of the leading biochemistry text books for medical students.Additional Resources to Help You:

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