Debunking Health Trends

Myth or Fact

By Isabel Braverman
Posted 4/18/17

It seems as if there’s a new diet that comes out every single day. The choices of diets to follow can be overwhelming. From classic diets like low-fat to new trendier ones like the Paleo diet, …

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Debunking Health Trends

Myth or Fact


It seems as if there’s a new diet that comes out every single day. The choices of diets to follow can be overwhelming. From classic diets like low-fat to new trendier ones like the Paleo diet, how can we know what works and what doesn’t? When we say “works,” that doesn’t necessarily mean work for weight loss: some diets, like those below, are intended to bring about an overall improvement in health. Here, we take a closer look into five current health trends and bust them open.
[This information was found from various sources online. These are not the views of The River Reporter. Consult your physician or nutritionist before trying a new health regimen.]

Gluten Free
What it is: A gluten-free diet excludes the protein gluten found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye. People who have the autoimmune disorder celiac disease (or an allergy to gluten) must eat a gluten-free diet. However, the concept has been so broadly popularized that people without a gluten allergy are opting to go gluten-free. Gluten causes inflammation in the small intestines of people with celiac disease, and may cause irritation in people who have gluten sensitivity. This diet has become so popular, that you can see the trend in many restaurants and on food labels offering gluten-free items. According to USA Today, up to one-quarter of all consumers now want gluten-free food, even though only one person in 100 has celiac disease.
What you can have: Many healthy and delicious foods are naturally gluten free: beans, seeds and nuts in their natural, unprocessed form; fresh eggs; fresh meats, fish and poultry (not breaded, batter-coated or marinated); fruits and vegetables; and most dairy products.
What you can’t have: In general, avoid the following foods unless they’re labeled as gluten-free or made with corn, rice, soy or other gluten-free grain: beer, breads, cakes and pies, cereals, cookies and crackers, croutons, imitation meat or seafood, matzo, pastas and processed luncheon meats.
The pros: People with celiac disease who eat a gluten-free diet experience fewer symptoms and complications from the disease. They must eat a strictly gluten-free diet and must remain on the diet for the remainder of their lives.
The cons: People who follow a gluten-free diet may have low levels of certain vitamins and nutrients in their diets. Ask your doctor to review your diet to see that you’re getting enough of these key nutrients: iron, calcium, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate and fiber. Many people believe they have a gluten intolerance, which is neither an autoimmune disorder, like celiac disease, nor an allergy, like a true wheat allergy. There is no test for this; it simply relies on someone’s subjective feelings of bloating, bowel changes, or mental fogginess after eating gluten, and can lead to pseudo-scientific self-diagnosis.

Whole 30
What it is: This diet, which you follow for 30 days, restricts what you can and cannot eat. It is touted as a way to “reset” your system. It is also known as an elimination diet, which can help you figure out what foods have a negative impact on your health, or that you may have an intolerance or allergy to. For example, to find out if you are allergic to dairy, you can not eat it and see if your symptoms go away.
What you can have: The Whole 30 website says, “Eat moderate portions of meat, seafood, and eggs; lots of vegetables; some fruit; plenty of natural fats; and herbs, spices and seasonings. Eat foods with very few ingredients, all pronounceable ingredients, or better yet, no ingredients listed at all because they’re whole and unprocessed.”
What you can’t have: Added sugar, real or artificial; alcohol, in any form, not even for cooking; grains; legumes; dairy; MSG or sulfites; baked goods and junk foods. There are more details to this, so check the website ( to read in full.
The pros: According to the website Greatist, these are the most common benefits experienced while on (and after) the Whole 30: weight loss, health conditions may improve, digestive problems resolved, skin is clearer, energy levels are through the roof, more effective workouts and improved sleep.
The cons: It can be difficult to follow all the rules of this diet. You have to make sure you are up for the challenge, and meal planning and preparation are important. A nutritionist in SELF magazine said, “I’m not a fan of ‘food rules,’ because they trigger negative connotations and can lead to disordered eating patterns. I believe adding general healthy habits to your daily routine is more impactful.” Other nutritionists have warned vegans and vegetarians to be careful when trying the program due to the lack of legumes (though the program has resources tailored to vegans and vegetarians on its website).

Juice Cleanse
What it is: Juice cleansing has become popular and endorsed by celebrities like actress-turned-health guru Gwenyth Paltrow. The program varies, but people on a juice cleanse consume only liquids for a certain number of days, usually a week, or three days. This is one fad diet that started out really trendy and now has almost entirely been debunked.
What you can have: Fresh and raw vegetable and fruit juices, liquids such as water, teas and coconut water.
What you can’t have: Any solid foods
The pros: Many people turn to cleanses because they feel off—they’re bloated and sluggish, dependent on caffeine and junk food cravings, or their skin is breaking out. Some people see a juice cleanse as “resetting your system” and eliminating toxins, hence it’s also called “detoxing.”
The cons: Other nutritionists claim that a cleanse does not have detoxing benefits, mostly because our bodies are capable of removing toxins on their own, via the liver and kidneys. Many people turn to a juice cleanse to lose weight, and while they may see immediate weight loss, studies have shown the effects are not lasting, and they will gain the weight back after the cleanse is over.

What it is: A vegan diet is one that consists of only plant-derived foods. Vegans don’t use or consume any animals or animal products (land or sea animals), milk, eggs, or honey. Many vegans choose this diet as a lifestyle, as they do not want to harm animals. Others may go on the diet as a way to lose weight.
What you can have: Any food that doesn’t contain an animal product.
What you can’t have: Any animal product, including dairy, eggs and honey.
The pros: Those on a vegan diet generally eat more fruits and vegetables. Also, the vegan diet is beneficial to the environment. Meat production uses a vast amount of land, food, energy, and water. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization cattle farming is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gases.
The cons: Vegans may not get some of the nutrients that they need, such as those found only in animal foods. They should take a B-12 supplement and iron to fortify their diet.

What it is: The Paleolithic diet is based mainly on foods presumed to have been available to Paleolithic humans. The diet is based on avoiding modern processed foods, and also the foods that humans began eating after the Neolithic Revolution when humans transitioned from hunter-gatherer lifestyles to settled agriculture. It basically is the answer to the question: What would a caveman eat?
What you can have: Grass-fed meats, seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, nuts, seeds, and healthy oils including coconut, avocado, olive and walnut.
What you can’t have: Cereal grains, legumes (including peanuts), dairy, refined sugar, refined vegetable oils, potatoes, processed foods, or salt.
The pros: According to one of the founders of the diet, it lessens the body’s glycemic load, has a healthy ratio of saturated to unsaturated fatty acids, increases vitamin and nutrient consumption and contains an optimal balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates. However, the health benefits of the Paleo diet are unproven. A handful of small studies have tried to determine if a Paleo diet is a healthier diet. One study published in the journal Diabetologia found that the diet improved blood sugar over 12 weeks compared to a Mediterranean diet that allowed grains, low-fat dairy and oils, but it’s hard to say whether researchers would come to the same results in a larger study.
The cons: The Paleo diet can lead you to eat more meat, and consuming excess protein and not enough carbohydrates can cause kidney damage and also increase your risk of osteoporosis. While there are a lot of nutritious pros, the diet does lack certain nutrients including calcium and vitamin D.


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