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6 Diet Trends You Should Never Try

The experts agree that these fads are neither safe nor smart.

By Julie Upton, RD, from Various fitness aidsSang An

hCG Diet

The hCG diet is a very low-calorie plan (500 to 800 calories per day) supplemented with injections of the pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). Any diet that drops below 1,000 calories is really unsafe for most of us to begin with, and you’re apt to lose a lot of weight even if you’re getting injected with milk shakes. Of course, the golden rule of dieting is that the faster it comes off, the more likely you are to regain it, so this diet would be on my list no matter what…but the hCG shots raise so many red flags I don’t know where to begin. Bottom line: Scientists don’t know if hCG is safe to inject when you’re not producing it naturally, so please don’t be a weight-loss guinea pig.

Master Cleanse

In southern California, this is a big trend. Dieters are trying the “cleanse” by drinking a concoction of squeezed lemons, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper several times a day for 10 days, says Karla Campbell, MS, RD, a dietitian in Long Beach, Calif. Then they down an herbal laxative tea at night and a quart of salt water first thing in the morning, supposedly to clean out the GI tract and bowels. Needless to say, there are no studies to suggest that our GI tracts and organs need any help in removing waste or so-called toxins from the body.

The diet is only 650–1,300 calories, and it lacks key nutrients like protein, calcium, iron, and zinc―so no dietitian recommends doing it for more than a day or two. Campbell also adds this warning: “Dieters who try it end up losing lean body mass, and then when they are ‘cleansed’ and go back to their old ways, they gain fat. They end up being a fatter version of their old selves.” Read more about the safety of detox diets.

Cabbage Soup Diet (and all of its single-food-diet cousins)

Contrary to rumors, this diet is not recommended by, nor did it originate with, the American Heart Association (AHA); the Sacred Heart Memorial Hospital, in Spokane, Wash.; or any other health organization. In fact, AHA and others have made it known that you should steer clear of this fad diet.

While there are several versions of the diet, all have a seven-day cycle based on all-you-can-eat “fat-burning” cabbage soup (a mix of cabbage, carrots, celery, tomatoes, peppers, and onions).

Since the diet provides plenty of liquids and nutrient-packed veggies, it’s not as bad as many other fad diets. However, if you enjoy food at all or have a life, you won’t be able to stay on any diet that restricts food groups or relies on one or two superfoods for very long. And then you’ll be back where you started right after you go off it.

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