Why Popular Diets Don't Work: A Systemic Review and Implications for Educators


      The quality of the adolescent diet in the western world has become of increasing concern to researchers and health professionals. Obesity in adolescent’s aged 12 to 19 has grown from five percent in 1980 to 21 percent in 2015. Healthy lifestyle habits, including healthy eating and physical activity, can lower the risk of becoming obese and developing related diseases. However, many adolescents rely on popular diet fads to loose weight their own. This research identifies popular adolescent diet fads found on popular social media.

      Design, Setting, and Participants

      A systemic review of the literature.

      Outcome Measures and Analysis

      A systemic review of online and social media sites commonly used by adolescent for information on dieting was conducted. Five common diet fads were identified. Next, a literature review examined the efficacy of these common and popular adolescent diets. Studies published since 2000 were identified from Medline, Cochrane and PubMed, 2000–2015.


      This comprehensive review demonstrates that social media is being used to inform adolescences about dieting. While information presented in social media presents positive conclusions, there is little high quality evidence from the research literature of improved health outcomes. Research reviewed revealed neurological, hormonal, and metabolic explanations for why common adolescent fad diets are not effective.

      Conclusions and Implications

      There is a gap in the information that is widely available to adolescents and what nutrition educators consider best practice. This research has implications for nutrition educators as it highlights gaps in knowledge and misinformation.