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January 2024

Fad Diets: Lower Weight, Higher Heart Risk?

Remember the Atkins diet? The Zone? The South Beach?

These fad diets may have had their heyday in years past, but we have no shortage of dietary trends today. Paleo, keto, very low-fat, intermittent fasting––you may have heard these terms thrown around by people trying to lose or maintain weight.

But research shows that some of these diet trends may increase your risk for heart problems like cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association (AHA) recently identified some of the heart-riskiest dietary patterns. These included the following:

Very low-fat diet

What is it? An eating pattern that emphasizes produce, whole grains, and legumes while cutting out oils, meats, fish, nuts and seeds, eggs, and dairy. Examples include the Ornish and McDougal diets.

What are its heart risks? This diet limits or forbids some foods that the AHA says are important for heart health, such as fish, nuts, and plant oils. Excluding these foods from your diet can increase your risk for heart problems. And this diet can lead to nutrient deficiencies that are associated with heart disease.

Paleo diet

What is it? Short for Paleolithic, this diet encourages loading up on produce, nuts, and lean meats while staying away from grains, legumes, certain oils, and dairy.

What are its heart risks? The AHA puts the Paleo diet in its lowest tier of alignment with a heart-healthy diet and says it is “of strong concern” around heart health. One of its problems: a reliance on meats high in saturated fats.

Keto diet

What is it? A keto, or ketogenic, diet emphasizes meats, eggs, and full-fat dairy while severely limiting carbohydrates like grains, legumes, and most fruits.

What are its heart risks? Another diet classified in the lowest tier by the AHA, keto can lead to limited variety in plant-based foods. As a result, you may lose important phytochemicals that are associated with a reduced risk of dying.

The ultimate takeaway? Proceed with caution if you want to try a new diet. The best path toward weight loss is different for everyone. Talk with your healthcare provider about what’s right for you.



Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2023
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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