Weigh in: Understanding popular diets

Following an unhealthy diet does have an effect on your body. Unhealthy diets cause approximately 678,000 deaths each year in the United States. Unhealthy diets lack in nutritional content, which often leads to  heart disease, type two diabetes and cancer. In the past 30 years, obesity has doubled in adults, quadrupled in adolescents and tripled in children.

45 million people in the United States go on a diet each year. The International Food Information Council Foundation found that 36 percent of those living in the United States have followed a new diet within the past year alone.

Why are more and more Americans choosing to follow specific diets?

  • Losing weight is a top contributor to relieving the detrimental health effects of obesity. American citizens spend over $33 billion each year in an attempt to lose weight through products. Two in three people in the United States are overweight or facing obesity. Obesity in the United States is increasing at an alarming rate. Obesity is known to cause cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, cancers, osteoarthritis and psychological disturbance. Having such a clear, measurable impact on mental and physical health, it is vital that obesity is tend to to ensure quality of life.
  • Heart health is a top concern for Americans when selecting to follow a specific diet. One in four people will die of a heart disease related illness. Approximately 610,000 people in America die every year. With improper heart-health due to diet, individuals are subjecting themselves to high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. Diets with low-saturated fat, high fiber and food that is plant based can reduce the risk of developing heart disease, and alleviate symptoms of those who do.
  • Gut health is one of the most important things humans should practice to ensure overall health. Health issues such as digestive upset, emotional distress, obesity, weakened immune system, depression, abnormal metabolic function and a multitude of skin conditions, are linked to the gut in the human body. This connection is known as the gut-brain axis.
  • Moral conduct is a major reason why some individuals elect to participate in a specific diets. Instead of consuming products containing meat or animal by products, some are choosing to eat solely plant based diets, or half plant based diets.

 

The most popular diets in the United States explained

What does this mean?

When someone is following a gluten-free diet, they are eliminating gluten from their diet. Anything containing wheat, rye, barley, oats and triticale are eliminated.

The primary reason individuals follow a gluten-free diet is if they have celiac disease. This disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes damage to the small intestine if gluten is ingested to the body. Two and one-half million Americans remain undiagnosed and ignore symptoms of discomfort, or attribute these symptoms of celiac to a false source.

The secondary reason individuals choose to follow a gluten-free diet is for the health benefits. In electing to not eat gluten, individuals are minimizing their risk of future disease, minimize bloating and gastrointestinal discomfort and weight loss. Four out of five individuals receive relief from bloating and discomfort when electing to not eat gluten.

Modern day wheat is genetically and biologically different than that of ancient wheat. This is where some confusion occurs when discussing gluten sensitivities and disorders. Today’s wheat is grown, processed and prepared vastly differently.

What are the risks?

Foods that are not eligible to be included in a gluten-free diet often times provide important vitamins and other nutrients such as iron, calcium, fiber, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate. To offset this, following a gluten-free diet should change your nutrient intake. In addition to reading labels for gluten-free products, it is important to read the labels to insure the nutrient levels, salt, calories from fats and calories from sugars are appropriate.

What does this mean?

A vegetarian diet consists of abstaining from consuming meat. This is a diet that individuals elect due to health and/or moral standards. When compared to non-vegetarians, vegetarians have a lower body mass index (BMI), lower cholesterol, lower risk of gallstones and lower risk of appendicitis. Within the vegetarian “kingdom,” different strands and varieties of vegetarianism have been established The first being lacto vegetarianism. An individual who follows a lacto vegetarian diet consumes plant based foods, while still consuming products containing dairy in their ingredients. Kefir, cream, ghee, butter, yogurt, cheese and milk are among these items. Ovo-lacto vegetarians consume all animal by products, but do not consume the animal meat. An individual who follows ovo vegetarianism consumes plant based foods, does not consume dairy but will consume eggs.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics believes that the vegetarian diet can be beneficial for individuals of any age. “Appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases,” The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics said. “These diets are appropriate for all states of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood and for athletes.”

What are the risks?

Vegetarian diets are usually low in nutrients such as iron, calcium, protein, zinc, vitamin D and B12. To make up for this deficiency, it is important to find adequate supplements either through direct food sources or through vitamins to supplement.

What does this mean?

An individual who follows a vegan lifestyle elects to not eat animal products or by-products. Instead, they elect to only eat plant based foods. These foods include legumes, beans, vegetables, fruits, soy, and nuts. Individuals who choose to adopt a vegan diet do so for different reasons. The two that are most popular are health benefits and personal morals.  Vegan diets contain carbohydrates, essential fatty acids, fiber, folic acid, vitamin C, E, Mg and protein.

What are the risks?

They are low in saturated fat, bad fatty acids, B12 and retinol. To make up for this deficiency, it is important to find adequate supplements either through direct food sources or through vitamins to supplement.

 

What does this mean?

An individual that elects to follow a pescatarian diet eats plant based foods but consumes seafood meat.

What are the risks?

While pescatarians reap similar benefits to that of vegans and vegetarians, they are consuming large amounts of mercury from the meat of the fish they consume. Additionally, they are exposing themselves to microplastic consumption. Obtaining meat from fish that were improperly sourced can be challenging to water ecosystems. Such improper sourcing leads to introductions of invasive fish species, use of wild fish for feed, overcrowding and disease. Additionally, being a pescatarian can prove to be expensive if individuals do not live near a coastline.

What does this mean?

By following a paleo diet, individuals are following a diet that refers to the paleolithic era, commonly known as the stone-age. Foods such as lamb, turkey, pork, salmon, “cage-free” eggs, vegetables, fruits and nuts are primarily consumed. When someone is following a paleo diet, they are avoiding processed foods, sugars, grains, most dairy, legumes, trans fats and artificial sweeteners.

What are the risks?

Due to the low carbohydrate intake, your body might be at risk of experiencing the overuse of its own stored fat. In electing to not consume dairy individuals must consume calcium and vitamin D from other sources, as it is critical to bone health. Additionally, the high levels of red meat and high fat meat intake present hidden dangers. Research suggests that high amounts of high fat meat leads to bowel cancer and risks to heart health.

What does this mean?

The keto diet, otherwise known as ketogenic diet, is among the most popular diets in the 21st century. The rise in popularity has stemmed from its health benefits resulting from low carb high-fat base. Certain studies suggest that in following the keto diet, you are a candidate for weight loss. Additionally, studies suggest that the keto diet is effective for diabetes and epilepsy.  When following a keto diet, carbs are limited to 20-50 grams per an individual day.

What are the risks?

By abiding by the standards of the keto diet, the human body goes into a state of ketosis. These ketones build up in the bloodstream due to a low-or no-carb diet. These low carbohydrate levels cause a drop in blood sugar levels, which encourages the body to break down fat to use for energy.