Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

The exclusive on exclusion diets

By Margaret Allman-Farinelli

What is the evidence for diets that focus on food exclusion?

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As a dietitian, I’ve often wondered what makes Australians embrace fad diets with such zeal.

Of course, the lure of instant success and the so-called “science” behind such diets can sound very convincing. And with a growing number of people overweight, it’s little wonder record numbers have attempted some kind of diet at some stage.

The simplest way to lose weight is to eat less and move more. But that’s not a very exciting message and we don’t tend to hear Hollywood stars claiming it to be the secret of their triumph.

Instead, we hear about the Dukan, South Beach and Atkins diets, to name just a few.

What these diets have in common is the exclusion of some critical dietary component as the key success. The current craze, for instance, is the exclusion of the protein gluten usually found in grain foods – just ask Miley Cyrus.

The practice ranges from regular fasting through avoiding whole food groups (such as vegetarianism), to exclusion of what’s perceived as a harmful component of food (such as gluten), to exclusion of a single food.

While there are some well-founded medical reasons underpinning food exclusion for certain people, most of what is done in the name of dieting has no such basis.

Eliminating in the ‘70s

Two examples of the more extreme forms of food exclusion date back to the 1970s.

The Israeli...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.