How to Detect a Diet Scam

You may know your omega-3s from your complex carbs, but can you detect diet scams? You needn’t look further than a newspaper, magazine, or infomercial to see outrageous nutrition and diet claims. With all the no-fat diets, no carb diets, detox diets – not to mention the magic-little-pill diets — it’s no wonder that the US is still the fattest nation on earth.

Many of these so-called weight loss plans can actually lead you down the path of deprivation (often resulting in weight loss, followed by regain). Others are outright harmful, depriving your body of important nutrients or worse.

So how can you protect yourself against diet frauds? Keep the following in mind:

1) Don’t forget common sense!
“Lose 15 lbs in a week”, “Drop a size in 2 days”, “Shed pounds without diet or exercise”. No doubt you’ve seen claims like this everywhere. Many fraudsters know how desperate people are to look slim and sexy – don’t fall for their tricks. It can happen to anyone. One of the most popular posts ever on this website looked the raspberry ketone scam — promoted by none other than Dr. Oz himself. You know the old saying if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Keep this in mind whenever you hear a lose-weight-quick promise.

2) What are the credentials of the person offering advice? Are they a registered dietitian (RD)? RDs are the real nutrition pros. To earn their credential, they must receive a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from a college or university that has a program approved by the American Dietetic Association. They must also complete 900 hours in a supervised practice program. Then they must pass a national examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration, and to maintain registration, dietitians complete ongoing continuing education requirements. In addition, many RDs have advanced nutrition science degrees, including Master’s or PhDs.

3) Is this person selling supplements or pills that must be taken or used in combination with their diet? Unless the supplement is backed by nutrition research substantiating the need for a specific nutrient or you have a medical condition requiring supplementation, most people don’t need a daily vitamin or mineral supplement. Ask why a supplement or pill is necessary and what research they have to support their claims.

4) Does the diet demand that whole food groups (like carbohydrates) must be omitted or specific foods must be eaten daily? Balanced nutrition and healthy weight loss allows for variety and moderation. Prohibiting whole groups of food decreases your intake of vitamins and minerals and is unnecessary to lose weight.

5) Does this person use testimonials (“My last client lost 20 pounds in 2 weeks!”) rather than nutrition research to substantiate their diet or supplement claims? Nutrition science is based on research. This means it’s been subjected to the rigors of multiple studies and reviewed by other scientists.

6) Do they promise quick, dramatic results rather than long term success? Sustainable weight loss takes time. “Guaranteed” speedy results should be a red flag that you may be dealing with a quack.

The least you need to know:

Seek credible sources of nutrition and diet information. If you are a fan of this website, congratulations! You’ve come to the right place for sound nutrition and diet info. All of the weight loss advice here is provided by registered dietitians (RDs) and is based on peer-reviewed, published scientific studies, not just a hope and a prayer.

Other good nutrition resources include:

American Dietetic Association:

American Heart Association –

American Cancer Society –

American Institute for Cancer Research –

American Diabetes Association –

American College of Sports Medicine –

Celiac Disease Foundation –

Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis –

Nutrition Action Health Letter (Center for Science in the Public Interest) –

Office of Dietary Supplements (National Institutes of Health) –

Tufts University Diet and Nutrition Letter –

And of course, our website, with content written exclusively by RDs,

Written by: Julie Upton, M.S., R.D., CSSD
Co-Founder, Appetite for Health

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