Trendy Crash Diets Damage Your Heart, Study Says

Written by Dr. Ahmed Zayed
Crash Diets

In order to lose weight, we are advised to exercise regularly and modify our diet. Logical, isn’t it? Calorie intake has to be lower than the amount of calories you burn. Today, we are swamped with all sorts of diets claiming they can help us slim down faster than ever.

It doesn’t take long for a crash diet to take the internet by storm and people decide to follow them thinking they’ll finally reach their body goal. These fad diets aren’t the best choice due to dangers they carry. The latest study showed they can cause transient harm to your heart health.

Crash Diets and Heart Health

Dr. Jennifer Rayner and a team of scientists at the University of Oxford, Oxford UK carried out a study that investigated the impact of crash diets on our health, especially heart function. The study involved 21 obese volunteers with an average age of 52 and average BMI of 37kg/m2. Most participants were women. Only six men were involved.

For the purpose of the study, participants had to consume a low-calorie diet of 600 to 800 calories a day for eight weeks. Scientists used MRI to evaluate the impact of very low-calorie diet on the distribution of fat in the abdominal area and heart muscle. The MRI was performed at the beginning of the study and after first and eighth week.

The study was funded by the British Heart Foundation and results were presented[1] at the CMR 2018, the meeting held by the European Society of Cardiology in Spain. Scientists found that after a week of low-calorie diet total body fat, liver fat, and visceral fat had significantly decreased by 6%, 42%, and 11% respectively.

Participants also experienced significant improvements in fasting total cholesterol, insulin resistance, glucose, triglycerides, and blood pressure.

While all this seems fine and dandy, the situation took a turn for the worse a week later when heart fat elevated by 44%. Increased heart fat was accompanied by deteriorated heart function and its ability to pump blood.

Crash Diets

Are these Diets Bad for Everyone?

Rayner and her team concluded[2] that crash diets or meal replacement programs popularized by the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Beyonce cause a transient damage to heart health. By the week eight, both fat content and heart function improved.

That said, heart function deteriorated at the beginning of one such diet and it shows heart disease patients should consult their doctor before following this eating pattern.

While for healthy individuals the changes in heart function are almost unnoticeable, men and women with any form of heart disease could experience additional deteriorate of heart function when starting with low-calorie diet. To be on the safe side, always ask your doctor whether it’s safe to start with this eating pattern before you go ahead and do it.

Besides the unfavorable effect on heart function, crash diets are also well-known for their yo-yo effect. Persons lose weight successfully for a while and end up gaining even more later on. Also, crash diets are too restrictive and deprive the body of some much-needed nutrients.

If you are overweight or obese and want to slim down, you’ll benefit more from a regular physical activity and a well-balanced diet that promotes lower intake of junk food and sweets while increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables.


Oxford University scientists found that crash diets cause transient deterioration in heart function. Patients with heart disease are advised to consult their doctor prior to starting with a crash diet. For successful weight loss i.e. to keep it off, you should favor a well-balanced diet that fits perfectly into your lifestyle.

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Contributor : Dr. Ahmed Zayed ()

This Article Has Been Published on February 6, 2018 and Last Modified on December 25, 2018

Dr. Ahmed Zayed Helmy holds a baccalaureate of Medicine and Surgery. He has completed his degree in 2011 at the University of Alexandria, Egypt. Dr. Ahmed believes in providing knowledgeable information to readers. Other than his passion for writing, currently he is working as a Plastic surgeon and is doing his masters at Ain Shams University. You can connect with him on Linkedin.

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