Photo: Sylvain Gaboury/Paul Bruinooge/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images
For the past few weeks, stories have been popping up about the alleged dangers of the F-Factor diet, a popular, high-fiber diet plan developed by prominent dietitian Tanya Zuckerbrot. Several articles detailed claims shared by Emily Gellis Lande, a fashion and lifestyle influencer who has spent much of the summer posting hundreds of screenshots on Instagram of the messages she’s received from people sharing the dangerous side effects they say they experienced while on the F-Factor diet. In the messages, which Gellis shares anonymously, people say they suffered from hives and rashes, migraines, canker sores, and severe gastrointestinal distress, including constipation and rectal bleeding.
The outcry has raised questions about the safety of the popular diet, which counts among its devotees celebrities like Megyn Kelly and Katie Couric. According to a new report from the New York Times, though, the story also has a bizarre twist: Of the hundreds of anonymous claims made about the plan, one of the most dramatic — that the F-Factor and its products caused a person to miscarry — was a hoax, planted to undermine the other legitimate stories.
So, what is the F-Factor diet, exactly? Is it safe? And who planted the fake message and why?
The F-Factor diet was developed over 20 years by New York dietitian Tanya Zuckerbrot. On its website, the F-Factor boasts that it is the “most liberating approach to weight loss and optimal health,” saying that its four “disruptive principles” — eat carbs; dine out; drink alcohol; work out less — make it “liberating” and “sustainable.”
The focus of the F-Factor diet is fiber. In step one, according to Good Housekeeping, dieters are supposed to eat 35 grams of fiber a day, and less than 35 grams of net carbs. In steps two and three, they’re still supposed to aim for 35 grams of fiber per day, but are allowed to up the number of carbs they eat.
While the F-Factor website says dieters are not required to cut or count calories, it claims that “there is an inherent calorie-cap built into the program,” because by eating so much fiber, people will feel fuller and eat less. To help them hit their daily fiber goals, dieters are encouraged to buy products from F-Factor’s line of fiber/protein bars and powders.
According to Dr. Tom Hildebrandt, the chief of the Center of Excellence in Eating and Weight Disorders at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, health professionals have had concerns about the F-Factor for years. He told the Times that the patients his office sees are “particularly vulnerable to diets with highly branded…