Celebrities’ influence on our decisions is both pervasive and unhealthy. In the age of social media, Americans’ obsession with reaching their unreasonable standards of beauty causes us to spend over $16.5 billion on plastic surgery, and about 59 million Americans spend money on ineffectual, dangerous health approaches that prominent celebrities regularly promote. The total spending of these individuals adds up to approximately $30.2 billion a year.
The clay diet, endorsed by actress Shailene Woodley in 2014, has received harsh criticism from medical professionals. While Woodley claims that “clay is great for you” because it “helps clean heavy metals out of your body,” studies have found that individuals can be exposed to toxicants like lead and arsenic by directly ingesting clay. Additionally, founding director of Yale University’s (Conn.) Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center David Katz emphasized that removing essential metals from the body can actually harm individuals and that a “favorable benefit-harm ratio has not been established to justify recommending this [diet].”
A more popular low-carb, moderate-protein, high-fat regimen, the ketogenic diet, is likely even more harmful but is nonetheless still endorsed by many celebrities. A diet primarily used to mitigate epileptic symptoms in children, the keto diet is not recommended for healthy adults trying to lose weight in a short amount of time. The diet works by depriving your body of carbohydrates by reducing intake to under 50 grams per day. As a result, insulin secretion is reduced and the body enters a catabolic state called ketogenesis. The body begins to break down fats for energy to produce ketone bodies, which can be utilized for energy production in the heart or kidneys. Although this might sound beneficial at first, dietitians at University of Chicago Medicine Ingalls Memorial suggest that there are serious side effects associated with long-term ketogenesis such as low blood pressure, kidney stones and an increased risk for heart disease.
Marcelo Campos, a primary care doctor at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates and lecturer at Harvard Medical School (Mass.), placed the keto diet into the category of common “‘yo-yo’ diets that lead to rapid weight loss fluctuation [and] are associated with increased mortality.” Since we do not know much about the long-term effects of the diet, he suggests we should “embrace change that is [more] sustainable in the long term [like] a balanced, unprocessed diet … [which] seems to have the best evidence for a long, healthier, vibrant life.”
While health professionals are unsure of the exact long-term effects of pursuing the keto diet, several agree that a balanced, more conventional diet is a safer alternative.
Media outlets focus primarily on the positive results that someone may obtain from trying this diet in the short term, but actress Megan Fox equates giving up carbohydrates permanently to giving up smoking, stating that “when [she’s] committed, there’s no stopping [her].”
By making such statements, prominent figures like Fox are encouraging individuals to spend unbelievable amounts of money toward sustaining a diet that can have permanent negative effects on their bodies. Individuals that endorse the keto diet, among other potentially harmful dietary practices, typically aren’t pursuing these diets to obtain certain health benefits but are rather maintaining the “ideal” body popularized by society.
Before adopting any drastic changes in diet, individuals should consider the potential risks that come with significant weight loss in a short period of time.
An alternative diet that physicians actively support is intermittent fasting, which involves changing the timing of meals or adopting regular fasts for a short period of time. This dietary regimen can be practiced in many different ways, including limiting eating hours of the day or caloric intake on a regular basis using the 16:8 or 5:2 methods, fasting on a scheduled basis through alternate-day fasting, or avoiding certain foods at certain hours of the day through the warrior diet.
The definition of a healthy physique varies from person to person, so individuals should practice discretion and consult a primary care provider before plunging heedlessly into any ridiculous diet that you may find online.
Sara Khan (23C) is from Fairfax, Virginia.