Food faddism refers to idiosyncratic diets and eating patterns that promote short-term weight loss, usually with no concern for long-term weight maintenance, which enjoy temporary popularity. The term ‘food fad’ may also be used with a neutral connotation to describe the short term popularity among restaurants and consumers of an ingredient, dish, or preparation technique.
‘Fad diet’ is a term of popular media, not science. Some so-called fad diets may make pseudo-scientific claims, but others labeled ‘fad’ are based on science. According to one definition, fad diets claim to be scientific but do not follow the scientific method in establishing their validity. Among the scientific shortcomings of the claims made in support of fad diets: not being open to revisions, whereas real science is; and observations that prompt explanations are used as evidence of the validity of the explanation.
Food fad is 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; and An emphasis is placed on eating certain foods to express a particular lifestyle.
In recent years food fad has become a popular pejorative term used by the mainstream nutritional and medical community to dismiss ideas and research that differ from their world view. A fad by definition involves a quick and brief surge in popularity. The Atkins diet and the Paleo diet both emerged in the 1970s, yet mainstream nutritionists disparage them as fad diets four decades later. Other acknowledged fad diets, such as the ‘Master Cleanse Diet’ and ‘Apple Cider Vinegar Diet’ are from books written in the 1970s and 1950s, respectively, indicating age of the origin of the diet does not seem to be a factor in categorizing a diet as fad.