The Dangers of Diabetes Fad Diets
Fad diets promise quick weight loss, and lots of them deliver on that promise (if you can stick it out for the duration). The problem lies in the way the weight is lost – severely cutting calories or eliminating certain ingredients will interfere with your metabolism, and while that may help you shed a few pounds, it will probably leave you feeling pretty crummy overall.
More importantly, a drastic diet can significantly hinder your diabetes management and even lead to weight gain and heart disease in the long run.
Fad Diet Dangers
Healthy people will eventually feel the uncomfortable effects of an extreme diet – hunger, mood swings, and dehydration – but diabetics can suffer a far worse fate. When you live with a metabolic disorder like diabetes, an unhealthy diet can lead to:
- A dangerous drop in blood sugar. Most diabetics are familiar with the effects of low blood sugar levels since it’s relatively easy to bring about – even one low-calorie meal can significantly lower your blood glucose levels. A string of low-calories meals can compound the problem, and if you take medication to keep your blood sugar down, restricting your calories can jeopardize all your body’s natural processes.
- Increase in cholesterol and blood pressure. Although plenty of studies have found that low-carb diets can lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and body weight, the effects are short-lived. Most of the pounds you shed are water weight, and any long-term decrease in cholesterol would be attributed to weight loss, not the specific nutritional composition of your special menu. In fact, a diet higher in fat or protein is more likely to cause cardiovascular problems down the road.
- Increased risk of kidney failure. Diabetes is the most common cause of kidney disease, but most patients do not experience kidney failure. However, certain low-carb, high-protein diets (the Atkins, Zone, and Sugar Busters diets, for example) stress the kidneys, affecting their ability to function, which will speed up the progression of kidney disease.
Types of Fad Diets to Avoid
New diets hit the market all the time, but many are simply old fads that have been rebranded as new solutions. In fact, most fad diets can fit easily into a few general categories:
- Low calorie. The Cabbage Soup Diet is perhaps the oldest surviving low-calorie diet plan, with its big, tempting weight loss claims. The foundation is pretty simple – take in a small amount of calories at every meal for an extended period of time. But a swift and severe calorie reduction can shock your system, and any diet that prescribes one meal (or in some cases, one ingredient) for several days or weeks is sure to result in a nutritional deficit. In the end, these plans can trigger weight loss, but they are absolutely unsustainable for good health.
- Low carb. Reducing carbohydrates isn’t necessarily a bad plan – most people eat too many simple carbs, and there’s no doubt that these refined foods contribute to metabolic syndrome. However, any diet that pushes fat and protein while restricting all carbs is never a good idea, since complex carbs (whole grains, vegetables, and fruit) are loaded with nutrients and minerals that your body needs. The South Beach Diet is one example where carb-cutting could be helpful: as long as diabetics skip the first phase meant to trigger ketosis, they can benefit from the reduction in simple carbohydrates and unhealthy fats that the plan prescribes.