By Alvin Danenberg, DDS, DrBicuspid.com contributing writer

March 21, 2018 -- An email about fad diets and bad breath was forwarded to me. This email claimed that some fad diets, including fasting and low-carb ones, could lead to dehydration and bad breath. This makes sense. But, there was an underlying intent.

The ultimate purpose of the email was to promote a dentist-developed bad-breath lozenge, but I've already discussed how I feel about healthcare practitioners promoting products, so I won't go into that here. The issue this email raised for me, however, is what is a fad diet? So, let me talk about fad diets and some side effects that were discussed in this email.

Fad diets

Alvin Danenberg, DDS
Alvin Danenberg, DDS.

Let me be clear: I do not believe in fad diets. But, what is a fad diet? If a nutrient-dense diet that has sustained our primal ancestors for at least 160,000 years is considered a fad diet, then I disagree with labeling it a fad diet. If the diets of various primal societies existing in isolated areas in the world today are considered fad diets, then I disagree they are fad diets.

Fad diets are quick fixes to lose weight by removing critical nutrients that the body requires.

Fasting is not a fad

Fasting has been studied and researched for many years. Peer-reviewed medical articles have been published in various medical journals. The overwhelming evidence is that fasting can produce significant health benefits, such as regulation of insulin and other hormones, repair of mitochondria, and antiaging effects. Of course, drinking water is necessary when fasting. Water does not break a fast.

Low carb is not a fad

A diet with low to very low carbohydrates and even a "keto diet" also have been studied. Our body can make the extra glucose it requires from other nutrients we have ingested. We don't need excess carbohydrates from our diet. Becoming a "fat burner" and not a "sugar burner" is healthy. However, this may cause a change in odors on the breath. I remind my patients that these odors will go away as these eating styles become stabilized in the body.

One popular diet question I get from my patients is about lean meats. I don't eat lean meats. I eat meats from pastured or wild caught animals that live humanely in their natural environments and only feed on their natural food sources. I include their healthy fats and their amazingly nutritious organs.

“Fad diets are quick fixes to lose weight by removing critical nutrients that the body requires.”

There is always a question about whole grains. Whole grains are problematic, as these have the following:

  • Phytates that bind to necessary nutrients
  • Proteins that are not completely digested and damage the gut microbiome and the intestinal lining
  • Excess carbohydrates that are unnecessary for healthy metabolism

However, a low-carb diet is not for everyone. For example, those who are growing children, are pregnant, have hypothyroidism, or have "adrenal fatigue" should not go "low carb." I try to talk with my patients about this, not always with success. In general, it is probably fair to say that most people will benefit from eating significantly fewer carbohydrates than are eaten by the majority of individuals in the modern world.

Side effects of fad diets

Dehydration is one risk my patients ask about. We often hear about how much water we should drink each day. Humans do not need to drink a specific volume of water daily. Your body will tell you when you need water. When you are thirsty, you should drink water -- all the water you want. If you are thirsty but you don't drink sufficient water, then you could get dehydrated.

Bad breath is another. This can be caused by many things -- certain odoriferous foods, excessive protein consumption, bacterial overgrowth in the mouth and other parts of the digestive tract, systemic infections, gum disease and tooth decay, sinus problems, and tonsil stones. Dehydration could cause a decrease in saliva, which could cause bad breath. I tell my patients that lack of adequate saliva will reduce the necessary nutrients to the healthy microbiome in the mouth as well as the healthy biofilm around the tooth margin called dental plaque (by the way, dental plaque is healthy until it's not). Saliva also initiates the digestion of certain foods, lubricates the mouth, and washes away food particles and bacteria.

My conclusion

I tell my patients that fad diets are unhealthy. They could cause dehydration and bad breath, among other complications. But, a healthy diet of nutrient-dense foods is not a fad diet. Let's be sure to define fad diets correctly. They are quick fixes to lose weight by removing critical nutrients that the body requires.

A version of this column first ran on Dr. Danenberg's blog. DrBicuspid.com appreciates the opportunity to reprint it. His book Crazy-Good Living from Elektra Press is available here.

Alvin Danenberg, DDS, practices at the Bluffton Center for Dentistry in Bluffton, SC. He is also on the faculty of the College of Integrative Medicine and created its integrative periodontal teaching module. He also spent two years as chief of periodontics at Charleston Air Force Base earlier in his career. His website is drdanenberg.com.

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DrBicuspid.com, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.


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