Reality check: Do fad diets followed by celebrities work?

Some celebrities embraced the gluten-free lifestyle to help them with their gluten insensitivities. Others — like Miley Cyrus — boasted that their switch to a gluten-free diet helped with weight loss. Getty Images

TORONTO – There are the diets where you eat like a caveman, or according to your blood type and sometimes only consume fresh-pressed juice. In other fitness models, you bathe in ice-cold water, demonize gluten or stuff yourself full with cabbage soup.

They’re allegedly quick fixes, but do they work in the long run?

Global News asked registered dietitians, Jennifer Sygo with Cleveland Clinic Canada, and Carrie Regan, with Lakeridge Health, to take a look at five popular celebrity diets. Take a look at how they graded each diet according to losing the weight and keeping it off.

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The Dukan Diet

The premise: It was made famous by the likes of Kate Middleton and her sister Pippa, who are allegedly steadfast followers of the diet. Starting from an “attack” phase, dieters go on an all-you-can-eat protein binge. Then they move into incorporating certain vegetables and only on certain days. In the third phase, dieters then get a taste of cheese, bread, fruits and other food.

Sygo says the diet, while it allows you to take your pick of protein, is calorie-restrictive. More or less, dieters abandon carbohydrates and fruits for weeks at a time.

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“You go into a state of ketosis where your body uses fatty acids as a source of energy instead of glucose because it’s not available,” Regan explained.

Verdict: “It’s nothing new, it’s a reincarnation of another low carb diet. It’s also very restrictive, you can’t eat anything that’s not on the list,” Sygo told Global News.

Weight loss potential: A

Likelihood of keeping it off: D

Overall quality: C+

Six Weeks to OMG: Get Skinnier Than All of Your Friends

The premise: It flew off of store shelves and climbed its way to the top of iTunes so, yes, it holds some clout.

Now, take a look at some of the diet’s guidelines: Don’t eat breakfast — exercise instead to coerce your body into burning fat. Jump in a cold shower, and the author means cold shower — at least 15C each morning so your body is forced to burn energy as it tries to keep you warm.

Blow balloons — the author doesn’t say how many or how often — but he suggests the action works out your abs. And skip broccoli, it’s as bad as a can of soda or chips when it comes to counting carbs.

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“This diet is taking every minute piece of research or data that suggests a person could lose one extra ounce and combines it all into one diet. They’re all valid to a degree but their effect is trivial,” Sygo said.

“It’s just absurd, the idea of taking cold showers for the rest of your life and never eating a piece of fruit,” she explained.

Verdict: “He recommends not eating fruit, which is not a great thing. Fruits have fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. He does promote whole foods, lean proteins, and green leafy vegetables and avoiding refined sugar and processed foods. Those are pros but there’s a lot of restriction,” Regan said.

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Weight loss potential: B

Likelihood of keeping it off: F

Overall quality: F

22-day veganism

The premise: On Dec. 3 last year, and just a day before his 44th birthday, rapper Jay-Z pledged to take on 22 days of veganism with his wife Beyonce. To show his commitment, he even blogged about it.

The power couple is a part of a bigger movement of consumers taking on part-time veganism. Both Regan and Sygo agree — veganism can be very healthy but only if it’s followed carefully. “This is different from a diet, it’s a lifestyle,” Sygo explained.

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It’s about plant-based meals, avoiding processed and refined products, stocking up on fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.

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Verdict: “If it’s done properly, it can mean a healthier lifestyle, less cardiovascular disease, lower blood pressure, lower weight, more fibre in your diet, lots of antioxidants and other nutrients,” Sygo said. But, she warns, a vegan diet to some could mean grazing on rice and potatoes all day, or stocking up on vegan cupcakes. Those don’t equate to better health.

Weight loss potential: Depends

Likelihood of keeping it off: Depends

Overall quality: Both Regan and Sygo agreed that the diet could lead to great results and better health if carefully adopted to make sure your body’s needs are fulfilled. If not, the vegan diet would be hard to maintain.

Cabbage soup diet

The premise: Do you remember this perennial favourite? Dieters cook a batch of cabbage soup packed with green onions, celery, carrots, green peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes and a head of cabbage in a low sodium broth. Every day for a week, they can have as much of the soup concoction as they want along with specific foods for each day. One Day 1, for example, you can eat as much fruit as you want with your soup.

By Day 4, you can eat as many as eight bananas with skim milk and by Day 5, you’re finally given some meat, in the form of a steak. Does that whet your appetite yet?

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“It’s not as popular as it was a couple of years ago. It’s high-fibre, low-fat, low-calorie,” Regan explained.

Verdict: “You will expect to feel very hungry, irritable, and you won’t have much energy to do much exercise. You would lose weight but I don’t think it can be maintained. It’s probably mostly water weight. You’ll gain it back,” Regan said.

READ MORE: What’s the best way to cook vegetables? Steaming, study says

Weight loss potential: A

Likelihood of keeping it off: F

Overall quality: F


The premise: Some celebrities embraced the gluten-free lifestyle to help them with their gluten insensitivities. Others — like Miley Cyrus — boasted that their switch to a gluten-free diet helped with weight loss. Gluten-free diets are meant to help people who have gluten intolerance, such as those with Celiac disease. But it morphed into a weight-loss craze. Some experts go so far as to say they hope the gluten-free fad comes to an end this year.

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Gluten is found in grains, such as wheat, barley and rye. Instead, gluten-free diets swap these out for flours made with rice, soy, potatoes or tapioca. Beans, nuts, fresh eggs, meat, fruit and vegetables are also safe bets for those with gluten intolerance.

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“Gluten-free doesn’t necessarily mean healthy for you. Gluten-free muffins or cake or baked goods – people think they’re good for them, but it’s not necessarily,” Sygo explained.

Regan says the diet, in turn, demonized gluten as a trigger for weight gain, when it isn’t.

Verdict: “People think it’s healthier because it’s a new fad. It’s an important diet for people with food allergies, it’s not a weight-loss diet,” Regan said.

Weight loss potential: F

Likelihood of keeping it off: B

Overall diet: (For those who need to follow it) A+

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