Summer Health Trends - Fashionable Fads Or Sustainable Solutions?

18/08/2017 14:59
knape via Getty Images

We're all used to it by now; when the summer arrives, so do the fashionable diets that claim to completely transform our bodies in a few short weeks. They take over our news feeds, magazine racks and even the supermarket aisles. But is there some truth in the latest summer health trends?

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Vegan diets

Veganism and plant-based diets are certainly becoming trendy, but are they healthy?

While UK nutrition bodies advise a vegan diet can meet your nutrient needs if properly planned, those ditching animal products without careful planning are at risk of deficiencies in major nutrients such as iodine, vitamin B12, calcium and iron. Recent statistics have even shown that children who consume plant-based alternatives as a dairy replacement, tend to be shorter on average than their peers.

Evidence suggests that a 100% plant-based diet may not be suitable for growing children, In fact, some medical groups even suggest a vegan diet should not be introduced in children without medical supervision and requires considerable supplementation.

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There can however be merits to having a 'plant slant' to your diet. Foods including vegetables, fruits, whole-grains, legumes and minimally processed starchy carbohydrates promote good gut health, but so do dairy products - for example lactose, the sugar found in dairy products, has been shown to improve our gut microbiome. For those who struggle digesting regular dairy, choosing cows' milk without the A1 protein could be a potential solution.

Whilst some may choose a vegan diet for other reasons, from a health perspective I am certainly not convinced.

Fasting diets

Of all the health diet trends, intermittent fasting wins hands-down for simplicity. Recently made popular by the 5:2 Diet and the Mediterranean-style Pioppi Diet, it alternates periods of normal food intake with gaps of 16 to 48 hours with little to no food. This might be as simple as making dinner your last meal of the day, skipping breakfast and having your first meal at lunch - or going without food entirely for a day.

But does it work? And what about the purported health benefits?

A recent report by the American Society for Nutrition indicated that fasting is not simply a fad and can result in weight loss, just like any diet that restricts calorie intake. The research around 'when' you should skip your meal or how long the fast should last for however, is mixed.

Skipping breakfast aided weight loss in one study but not in another, and while humans have been practicing routine fasting for a millennia, the associated health benefits such as living longer have only been demonstrated in rats. So, the jury is out for now.

Juice diets

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Throwback to the 1970s and juicing was limited to the realms of health extremists. Yet in recent years, 'juicing' has become as mainstream as any other diet; it would not be a normal week if I didn't speak to a least one patient who's tried juicing to shed a few pounds.

Yet there is a world of difference between drinking the occasional juice and still eating solid food, to removing whole food groups and existing only on juiced fruit and vegetables for days at a time. The risk with this approach is the complete lack of protein, essential for helping your body build and repair cells - of which fruits and vegetables have very little. If the body doesn't get its protein through diet, it begins to break down existing cells, muscle tissue and eventually internal organs. No matter how tempting, this diet is an utter fad.

Fashionable fads or sustainable solutions?

Whilst there may be small benefits to some of this summer's latest health trends, maintaining a healthy and happy body should be the top priority rather than focusing on fashionable fads which could cause serious long-term damage to your health.

Photo credits: iStockphoto

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