Science vs. Fitness and Food Trends

With 2020 right around the corner there’s a lot of excitement ahead, but also a lot of pressure to pick out a New Year’s Resolution that will help you become a healthier, happier version of yourself. Before you dive into your resolution, it’s important you are using the most effective methods of reaching your health and fitness goals. Although the internet is a great place to discover tips, it also is filled with trendy fad diets, “fitspos” and other false advertising that promises quick results. Luckily, in this article we break down some of the biggest food and fitness trends and measure them up against science. Let’s see which diet and fitness trends are worth your time:

1. Keto diets

According to cancer.gov, the ketogenic diet is a high fat, low carb diet that causes the body to resort to using fat for energy instead of carbohydrates, breaking down fat into molecules called ketones. Ketones then circulate in the blood and become the main source of energy for many cells in the body. A keto diet is used to treat some types of epilepsy and is being studied in the treatment of some types of cancer. There is evidence that a keto diet can help in treating some types of epilepsy, but the question still remains if the keto diet is healthy for the average person, and whether or not you can lose fat with it. Research shows strong evidence of faster weight loss when patients go on a ketogenic or very low carbohydrate diet compared to participants on a more traditional low-fat diet, or even a Mediterranean diet. However, that difference in weight loss seems to disappear over time. According to Northwestern, there could be some health risks of a high-fat diet as the high-fat nature of the diet could have negative impacts on heart health. Dr. Maganti states that, “we see an increase in lipids, or fat, in the blood of patients on the keto diet within six to eight weeks.”  Since the keto diet is hard to maintain, it is not necessarily beneficial in long-term weight loss. In conclusion, it might be smart to stay away from yo-yo diets like keto that may not benefit you in the long run.

2. CBD

CBD is short for cannabidiol, which is the second most prevalent active ingredient of cannabis(marijuana). While CBD is derived from cannabis, it does not produce a high as it is the non-psychoactive portion of the cannabis plant. CBD has been all the talk in 2019 and is marketed on everything from chocolate to even bath bombs! It has been advertised as helping users with relaxation, pain, anxiety and an overall improvement in mood. So, is a life full of relaxation and improved mood just a chocolate bar away? Unfortunately, according to health.harvard.edu, a few studies have found CBD may improve anxiety, but these studies were small and of poor quality. It is also important to note that CBD products are not regulated by the FDA in the way that drugs are. There is just not enough solid research that backs up what all these CBD products are promising. It is also important to note that testing showed that purity and dosage can be unreliable in many CBD products. One study found that less than a third of the products tested had the amount of CBD shown on the label. So before giving in to the CBD craze, educate yourself on the most reliable vendors and be aware that CBD may not give you all the amazing benefits it claims.


3. Fit Teas

If you have an Instagram account you have likely seen a beautiful girl with a skinny waist holding a cup of tea in their hand, claiming that this magical liquid has helped them lose weight. Even celebrities such as Vanessa Hudgens, Victoria Justice and the Kardashians are advertising fit teas on their Instagram. Ok, so what exactly are fit teas? Fit teas, as described on one packaging, are a “blend of all natural ingredients” that “promotes fat burning and weight loss” while it also “improves your immune system” and “soothes and cleans your digestive system”. Although these statements sound amazing, it’s important to note that because these teas are sold as dietary supplements, meaning they aren’t required to prove any claims on their labels. According to the National Institute of Health, there is insufficient evidence that senne, the laxative herb used in many fit teas, aids weight loss, Unfortunately. the tea alone is not as magical as the internet is putting it out to be. On the bright side, there’s years of solid proof and evidence that if you pair a healthy diet and exercise with fit teas, you may finally give you the results it has promised. You could also just ditch the tea and drink good old water, it’s not as glamorous but it is cheap and always does the trick.

4. Plant-Based Diets (Flexitarian)

With plant-based burgers, breakfast sandwiches and wings popping up all over major food corporation menus, plant-based diets have hit the mainstream. Plant-based encompasses more than full vegan and vegetarian now, with the Flexitarian diet winning the hearts of many Americans today. The Flexitarian diet was built on the concept of reaping the benefits of vegetarian eating while still enjoying animal products in moderation. Basically, a Flexitarian is a “flexible vegetarian”, meaning they mainly eats plant-based foods, but occasionally incorporate animal products in their diet. Every Flexitarian is different, but the diet allows for up to 28 ounces of lean meat or poultry a week. Is being a Flexitarian the key to a healthy lifestyle? This diet essentially carries the same benefits of a vegetarian diet. A vegetarian diet has been proven to lower your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. A 2017 study found that people who follow a Flexitarian diet had lower body weight than those who regularly ate meat, as well as lower risk of metabolic disease and for type II diabetes. In the 2019 Best Diet Rankings by U.S. News & World Report, the Flexitarian Diet was ranked #3 in the Best Diets Overall. These findings and more indicate that maybe the Flexitarian Diet is worth a fair shot.


5. Intermittent Fasting

This eating strategy has blown up in 2019, as people all over the internet claim it is the secret to weight loss. Intermittent fasting (IF) is an eating strategy that cycles between periods of eating and long period of fasting. This typically involves a specific window of time in which a person chooses to consume food, with a popular method being ‘16:8’ where one fasts for 16 hours and eats solely during an 8-hour period. This varies from person to person, as there are many different ways to intermittent fast. Intermittent fasting’s key player is insulin. Insulin is a critical hormone that allows your body to use glucose (a sugar found in carbohydrates) for energy. Insulin levels drop when a person is not consuming food. IF as weight loss method argues that once insulin levels go down far enough and for long enough, we burn off our fat. In addition, it is said to decrease appetite by slowing the body’s metabolism. Science says? Well, unfortunately research studies on intermittent fasting have mostly been done with mice, and there have really only been a handful of small studies using human subjects. Yet, in these small studies there have been remarkable findings, finding that intermittent fasting may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and promote weight loss. Studies done with animals and intermittent fasting suggest that intermittent fasting may even reduce the risk of cancer, as well as improve mood and brain function. Yet, more research is needed. The main issue with intermittent fasting is that it is hard for many to maintain. In a study done with 100 people at Harvard, there was a 38% drop out rate in the diet. This is common result as many find it challenging to not sneak a snack in during fasting hours. If you are willing to commit and stick with IF, it may be worth it. Yet, some studies have shown that intermittent fasting does not produce better results than traditional calorie restriction. So perhaps the good old eat less, move more mentality is really all there is to weight loss.