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How to spot a fad diet

There are so many diet books and articles that appear in magazines. I'm sure some of these are nothing more than fads. How can a person spot a fad diet from a medically sound one?

Well, here are some tips. Any diet that guarantees drastic weight loss within a short period of time or that advocates the consumption of only one or two types of food are definitely fads. But the following are also characteristic of diets with little or no scientific backing:

* It is short-term and requires no physical exercise
* It involves the use of special garments or passive exercise machines
* It uses `magic' ingredients with special abilities to speed up your metabolism
* It claims you can eat as many calories as you like and still lose weight
* It advocates certain combinations of specific foods
* It uses an exotic range of expensive and unusual foods
* It requires that you take special powders, pills and meal replacements
* It replaces natural foods with vitamin/mineral supplements.

Any sensible weight-loss diet would allow you to choose from the various types of nutritious foods and would definitely include all four major food groups - fruit and vegetables, meat and meat substitutes; bread and cereals; and milk and dairy products.

It would also encourage you to change your general eating habits towards a healthier regime which should be maintained for life.

Such changes would include the use of lower-fat foods and alterations in your cooking and preparation methods to reduce the use of oil as far as possible.

Crash diets in which you drastically reduce the amount of food you eat do not work. This is because your body's metabolic rate slows down to adjust for the fewer calories it's receiving and once you stop your diet and increase your calorie intake, you put on weight immediately.

A sensible diet would also promote exercise as part of the weight reduction programme and would not promise instant results. You should expect to lose no more than half to one kilo per month on such a diet.

This is, in fact, commonsensical and often considered not `exciting' enough for publication in glossy, trendy magazines. But it is the tried and true method that can be realistically maintained and carries the best prognosis for a life-time of good health.