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Popular fad diets can pack a dietary punch, latest study reveals

In a recent study published in Nutrients, researchers identified probably the most “popular” fad dietary patterns in america of America (USA), evaluated their dietary quality per the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), and presented opportunities for maximizing their dietary quality.

Study: Opportunities for Maximizing the Dietary Quality of Fad Diets. Image Credit: Creative Cat Studio/Shutterstock.com


Research suggests that almost all Americans follow a Westernized food plan high in saturated and trans fats, sodium, sugar, and calories. Americans also overconsume refined grains, animal proteins, and alcoholic beverages.

Moreover, around 80% of Americans habitually eat fewer fruits, vegetables, and fibers than really useful by the DGA.

Put simply, despite concerted policy-based and programmatic efforts to teach people about nutrition and healthy diets, most Americans don’t follow public dietary guidelines. 

Accordingly, the population scored low on the Healthy Eating Index (HEI) from 2005 to 2016, as revealed within the DGA survey 2020–2025. Reports also suggest that 17% of American adults followed a special food plan during 2015–2018.

Given the importance of dietary quality for long-term health, the standard of the American food plan needs improvement. Nonetheless, that requires detailed know-how of what Americans eat or popular fad diets in America.

In regards to the study

In the current study, researchers identified probably the most “popular” fad dietary patterns within the USA and used the HEI scores to guage their dietary quality in comparison with the DGAs.

First, two independent researchers compiled a database of definitions and food plan attributes from peer-reviewed sources, web sites, popular books, and blogs, wherein they specifically used the keyword “fad food plan” to discover common themes.

Common themes that appeared most continuously were then used as a framework to determine a comprehensive working definition of a fad food plan.

Next, they thoroughly searched Google Trends©, using probably the most widely searched terms or phrases related to fad diets to discover the ‘popular’ fad dietary patterns for inclusion in the present study.

They conducted the initial search using the keyword “food plan,” which returned 25 dietary patterns. Nonetheless, after elimination based on duplication, relevance, and inclusion and exclusion criteria, eight fad dietary patterns made it to the ultimate evaluation.

Then, researchers identified the specifics of every popular fad dietary pattern and their mechanism(s) of motion concerning weight reduction or health outcomes. These parameters were calorie limits, micronutrient compositions, restricted dietary components, required supplements, and special foods.

The researchers utilized the operationalized parameters of the favored fad dietary patterns to create one-week menus in the identical way clinical dietitians devise a meal plan for patients. They ensured that the dietary quality of those menus complied with the DGAs to the utmost possible extent.

The team used the Automated Self-Administered 24 h (ASA24®) dietary assessment tool to research dietary intake data and determine HEI-2015 scores within the range of 0–100, where 100 indicated full and 0 indicated low adherence to the DGAs.

The ASA24® tool also collected information on specific foods, portion sizes, drinks, and condiments in each sample menu, which helped the researchers calculate the means and standard deviations (SDs) per nutrient.

Based on this, they determined whether these menus met micronutrient requirements for each women and men aged 19–50 based on really useful dietary allowances (RDAs).


In the present synthesis, the team categorized the favored fad dietary patterns as least, moderately, and most restrictive.

The DGA-compliant, plant-based/vegan, and fasting diets were the least restrictive. Military, paleolithic, and low-fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polysaccharides (FODMAP) diets were moderately restrictive.

Meanwhile, the ketogenic, carnivore, and liquid diets were probably the most restrictive.

After maximizing adherence to the DGAs for every popular fad dietary pattern, total HEI scores ranged from 26.7 to 89.1 for Carnivore and Low-FODMAP diets, respectively. The overall calorie provision was the best and lowest within the Liquid and Carnivore Diets at 2,143 and 1,302 kcal/day, respectively.

The vast majority of adequacy components for fruits, vegetables, and protein had high adequacy component scores. Other popular fad dietary patterns accommodated the maximal vegetable, fruit, and protein intakes except the ketogenic, carnivore, and liquid diets. 

ASA24 classified whole grains versus refined grains in accordance with the theoretical menus. Subsequently, whole grains consistently scored low, indicating submaximal adherence in all popular fad dietary patterns. Similarly, dairy/dairy alternatives showed submaximal adherence in six popular fad dietary patterns. Quite the opposite, apart from the DGA-compliant, military, and liquid diets, the fatty acids ratios of other fad dietary patterns scored maximum points.

On the moderation component scale, sodium scores were consistently submaximal, indicating most fad dietary patterns supplemented excessive sodium, whereas refined grain, saturated fats, and added sugar scored high, representing low consumption.

Exceptionally, the ketogenic and the carnivore diets provided high amounts of fats from animal products.

In micronutrient evaluation, calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and fiber emerged as nutrients of concern as a consequence of their underconsumption by Americans.

Notably, Vitamin D was only adequately supplemented by the paleolithic food plan, whereas calcium was adequate in all except the paleolithic, carnivore, and ketogenic diets.

Moreover, potassium was adequate in all however the ketogenic and carnivore diets, which also lacked fiber. Aside from carnivore and ketogenic diets, all other dietary patterns had, on average, concerns about inadequate vitamin E and vitamin D intake.


Overall, the present study evaluation showed that if rigorously planned to follow the DGAs to the maximal extent, a number of the popular fad dietary patterns have the potential to realize an HEI rating of greater than 80. 

Five fad diets reached the cut-off threshold for top dietary quality, represented by higher HEI scores. These were the low-FODMAP, vegan, military, fasting, and DGA-compliant diets. Despite problematic dietary adequacy, the ketogenic food plan also showed the potential to attain a high HEI rating.

Moreover, this evaluation suggested that making small changes inside the parameters of the dietary pattern returned promising strategies for improvement in dietary quality.

To conclude, many misconceptions exist regarding the “appropriate” technique to eat. Nonetheless, even popular dietary patterns have the potential to advertise health.

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