The phrases food faddism and fad diet originally referred to idiosyncratic diets and eating patterns that promote short-term weight loss, usually with no concern for long-term weight maintenance, and enjoy temporary popularity.
A food faddism is an eating regime that focuses on a particular food or food group.
"Food fad" is a term originally used to describe simple, catchy diets that often focused on a single element such as cabbage, grapefruit or cottage cheese. In 1974, the term was defined as three categories of food fads.
- A particular food or food group is exaggerated and purported to cure specific diseases.
- Foods are eliminated from an individual’s diet because they are viewed as harmful.
- An emphasis is placed on eating certain foods to express a particular lifestyle.
"Food fad" is also used by media and the scientific community to refer to diets that do not follow common nutritional guidelines, regardless of their actual status as a fad; for example, the Atkins and Paleo diets are commonly referred to as food fads, even though they have enjoyed cycles of popularity for several decades. Thus, while called food fads, they are not always actual fads (which are defined by sharp but brief spikes in popularity).
FamilyDoctor.org, a publication of the American Academy of Family Physicians, for example, proclaims that fad diets "typically don't result in long-term weight loss and they are usually not very healthy. In fact, some of these diets can actually be dangerous to your health." They then offer a long list that includes low-carbohydrate diets in general and Atkins, the Zone diet and three others by name. One scientific study contradicts the website's assertions. A 2007 study published in the Journal of American Medicine concluded that overweight premenopausal women age 25 - 50 without any heart, renal, kidney, or diabetic disease on the Atkins diet lost more weight than those on specific low-fat diets after 12 months. The researchers concluded that low-carbohydrate diets are a "feasible alternative recommendation for weight loss." However, this study did not compare the Atkins diet to calorie restriction diets.
Some programs considered fad diets:
- The 4-Hour Body
- 5:2 diet
- Blood type diet
- Cabbage soup diet
- Detox diet
- Dukan Diet
- Grapefruit diet
- Israeli Army diet
- Lemon Detox Diet
- Master Cleanse
- Morning banana diet
- Paleolithic diet
- South Beach Diet
- Low-carbohydrate diet 
- High carb/low fat diets
- Food combining
- Liquid diets
- Diet pills, supplements and herbal remedies
Examples of popular U.S. food items since 2000:
- "WordNet Search - 3.1". Wordnetweb.princeton.edu. Retrieved 2012-08-03.
- "Illegal milk: the new US food fad". The Sydney Morning Herald. 2008-06-24.
- Ashraf H (2013). Smith AF, Kraig B, ed. Diets, Fad. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America. volume 1 (2nd ed.) (Oxford University Press). pp. 623–626. ISBN 978-0-19-973496-2.
- McBean, Lois D. M.S., R.D. and Elwood W. Speckmann Ph.D. (1974). Food faddism: a challenge to nutritionists and dietitians. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol 27, 1071-1078.
- British Dietetic Association. October 2014. British Dietetic Association: Fad diets
- "Nutrition for Weight Loss: What You Need to Know About Fad Diets". Familydoctor.org. Retrieved 13 October 2012.
- Hiatt, Kurtis. 1 March 2011, U.S. News & World Report, "'The 4-Hour Body'—Does It Deliver Results?".
- "Nutrition for Weight Loss: What You Need to Know About Fad Diets". familydoctor.org. 2004-02-01. Retrieved 2011-09-19.
- Crosariol, Beppi. 9 January 2014,The Globe and Mail, "Feeling frugal after the holidays? Try these 11 affordable wines". Accessed 3 February 2014.
- webmd.com, 22 April 2011, "Are Fad Diets Worth the Risk?". Accessed 3 February 2014.
- Forbes, Gilber, American Academy of Pediatrics, 1980. "[Food Fads: Safe Feeding of Children http://pedsinreview.aappublications.org/cgi/reprint/1/7/207]" Pediatrics in Review. 1980;1:207-210. doi:10.1542/10.1542/pir.1-7-207.
- Sandra Bastin for University of Kentucky Extension Service. August 1998; revised March 2004. University of Kentucky Extension Service: Fad Diets
- Jonathan. "How to Spot Fad Diets". ahm Health Insurance. Retrieved 2012-07-25.
- news.com.au. 8 January 2014, "The worst diets of 2013 - and the best for 2014". Accessed 3 February 2014.
- Toyama, Michiko. Time, 17 October 2008, "Japan Goes Bananas for a New Diet" Accessed 1 July 2011.
- "Caveman fad diet".
- DeBruyne L, Pinna K, Whitney E (2011). Chapter 7: Nutrition in practice — fad diets. Nutrition and Diet Therapy (8th ed.) (Cengage Learning). p. 209. ISBN 1-133-71550-8.
'a fad diet by any other name would still be a fad diet.' And the names are legion: the Atkins Diet, the Cheater's Diet, the South Beach Diet, the Zone Diet. Year after year, 'new and improved' diets appear ...
- "People to watch". Nature Medicine 12 (1): 29–29. 2006. doi:10.1038/nm0106-29. ISSN 1078-8956.
James Hill wants Americans to shed pounds. But instead of promoting any one fad diet, he embraces most--Atkins, South Beach, grapefruit-only--as relatively effective ways to lose weight.
- "Fad diets: Low Carbohydrate Diet Summaries" (PDF).
- Cohen, Larry et al. Prevention Institute, San Jose State University. "The O Word: Why the Focus on Obesity is Harmful to Community Health". Accessed 3 February 2014.
- Daniels, June RN, MSN. Nursing: December 2004 - Volume 34 - Issue 12 - p 22–23, "Fad diets: Slim on good nutrition". Accessed 3 February 2014.