The Wackiest Weight Loss Diets of 2016

Article posted in: Diet & Nutrition
glass of wine

When it comes to weight loss, coaches and experts may want you to change your lifestyle, but people really want a silver bullet: One change, one book or one diet that will slim them down, fast.

The obsession with a one-diet-makes-all-fit-into-smaller-clothes solution has given us the Atkins Diet, the Cabbage Soup diet, the 5:2 diet, the Hollywood Cookie diet, and even satirical stuff like this year’s Taco Cleanse, a cookbook of 75 vegan taco recipes that sound delicious.

Diets like these might work for some, but “rigid” diets that focus on cutting out specific foods have been linked to anxiety, depression, and even higher BMI when compared to more flexible approaches, says a study published in the journal Appetite. But as long as there’s money to be had, restrictive, instant results solutions will be invented and sold. Here are four that you may have heard about in 2016:

1. Stare into the Sun, Lose Weight
In Hong Kong, women holding umbrellas in front of their faces to protect their skin have started staring into the sun for periods ranging from 10 seconds to 40 minutes or more. They claim that they’re reaping the sun’s energy, reducing their need for food. Some adherents claim that this sun-gazing has made it so they don’t need to eat at all.

What they might need is a trip to the ophthalmologist: Your eyes can get sunburned, just like your skin, resulting in pain, light sensitivity, and can ultimately lead to cataracts, partial blindness or eye cancer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, at least 10 percent of cataract cases are caused by UV exposure.

Getting out in the sun is, of course, great for your body: Getting more Vitamin D can help fend off osteoporosis, cancer and heart disease. But if you’re headed out or a walk or just to warm up when spring comes, wear sunglasses.

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2. Eat Lots of Chocolate, Drink Lots of Red Wine
This one doesn’t seem like a problem for most people: They’re used to cutting out desserts and alcohol to lose weight. But the “sirt food” diet recommends the opposite: This 2016 trend focuses on foods rich in compounds called “sirtuin activators,” polyphenols that the diet’s authors say “put mild stress on our cells,turning on genes that mimic the effects of fasting and exercise.” These sirt-containing foods include kale, red onions and, yes, dark chocolate and red wine.

But the diet itself isn’t all Cabernet and cacao: In the first three days, you eat 1,000 calories from three juices and just one full meal—all loaded with sirts, of course. The diet authors say sirt foods not only help with weight loss, but improve memory, help with blood sugar control, and protect the body from cancer.

Polyphenols definitely have some health benefits: For example, multiple studies have found that resveratrol, a polyphenol in red wine, can help fend off heart disease, though the Mayo Clinic points out that the benefit is often exaggerated… probably because “drink more red wine” sounds so great. And sirt compounds have been posited as a potentially therapeutic for Alzheimer’s. But as for the “mimicking fasting,” it’s tough to tell: Eating 1,000 calories is, for most overweight Americans, tantamount to fasting levels of caloric intake. So it’s probably the reduced calories that are causing weight loss at first, regardless of whether the sirts are helping.

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3. Bone Broth: Still a Thing
Last year, nutritionists were calling bone broth “the new juice cleanse.” This broth, made from bones-with-a-little-meat instead of the opposite, is rich in protein and minerals that adherents say help with digestive health, skin health and “detoxification.”

Your liver does plenty of detoxifying all on its own, but bone broth is prescribed by some doctors as part of a the GAPS (gut and psychology syndrome) diet, a protocol that has been used in the treatment of autism, ADHD, depression and schizophrenia. And probiotics, like the ones bone broth may promote in the stomach, have been shown to help fight infection and even lower blood pressure. In a study from the American Heart Association journal Hypertension, probiotic consumption for at least eight weeks resulted in a drop of systolic pressure (the top number in your blood pressure) by an average of 3.56, and also helped drop diastolic pressure (the bottom number) in patients whose blood pressure was considered “elevated” at the start of the study.

Drinking warm broth before a meal has also been shown to help with weight loss: Consuming a hot liquid 60 minutes before a meal has been shown to help dieters consume fewer calories when it’s time to eat.

One note of caution: Bone broth has been shown to have higher levels of lead than other broths or the water it’s made in. And while bone broth is lauded for detoxifying properties, lead is really toxic: The U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances says that besides fatigue, loss of libido, weakness, diminished visual performance, and lots of other potential effects on adults, there is “no lower threshold for some of the adverse neurological effects of lead in children.” These include coma, hyperirritability and even death. This is not to be alarmist: Just check with your pediatrician before loading your kids’ bowls with bone broth each day.

4. The Battery (Ahem!) Alkaline Diet
The “alkaline diet” claims that excess acid in the body turns into fat, which leads to weight gain. Celebrity adherents say that modern diets contain too much acid, and that “acidic” foods like meat, wheat, dairy, refined sugar, alcohol and caffeine should be avoided, replaced by “alkaline” foods—mostly fruits and veggies.

To fend off acidity, some alkaline dieters keep a rule of eating 80 percent fruits and veggies, and just 20 percent protein and grains. There’s little to argue against here: Swapping bread and cookies for broccoli and carrots is likely to make you healthier, with fiber to keep you full, nutrients to make your body function well, and fewer calories to help you lose weight.

But the acid/alkaline part has little evidence to back up its claims. Your body is pretty good at maintaining its pH balance no matter what you eat. And cutting out certain foods completely—like dairy and meat—can mean losing key nutrients like calcium and complete proteins, which serve important functions in bone health, muscle growth and maintenance, and even weight loss. So do eat more fruits and veggies, but don’t think it’s the alkaline properties that are making them help you lose weight.