The 80/10/10 Diet: Healthy Diet or Dangerous Fad?
The 80/10/10 Diet has gained popularity over the last decade or so.
This low-fat, raw-food diet promises to help you discover a sustainable lifestyle that leads to weight loss, better health and disease prevention.
Some people who follow it rave about the great physical changes they feel, while critics condemn the diet as unsustainable and unnecessarily restrictive.
So, does the 80/10/10 Diet really work, and is it actually safe to give it a try?
This article explains everything you need to know about the 80/10/10 Diet.
What Is the 80/10/10 Diet?
The 80/10/10 Diet is a low-fat, raw vegan diet developed by Dr. Douglas Graham, a raw foodist, retired chiropractor and former athlete.
It is also sometimes referred to as 811, 811rv or LFRV (low-fat raw vegan).
The diet is based on the idea that the optimal diet should provide at least 80% of calories from carbs, with no more than 10% of calories from protein and 10% from fats.
Unlike many popular diets, the 80/10/10 Diet has no time limit.
Instead, it is promoted as a long-term solution to increase longevity and reduce obesity and disease.
Summary: The 80/10/10 Diet is a low-fat, raw vegan diet consisting primarily of raw fruits and tender, leafy greens. It is promoted as a long-term solution to obesity and disease.
The 80/10/10 Diet is based on the idea that humans aren’t naturally omnivores, but rather frugivores, or animals that prefer to eat fruit.
It proposes that your digestive system is physiologically designed to digest fruit and tender, leafy greens.
It suggests that although humans can tolerate other types of foods, those foods aren’t optimal.
In nature, a diet naturally based on fruit and tender greens would provide roughly 80% of calories from carbs and no more than 10% of calories each from protein and fats. This is what the 80/10/10 nutrient distribution is based on.
Raw fruits and tender, leafy greens are believed to contain all the nutrients humans require, in the optimal proportions your body needs.
Cooking is believed to damage the nutrients naturally found in foods, making them nutritionally inferior to raw foods.
Cooking is also alleged to produce toxic compounds that are believed to cause various diseases, including cancer, arthritis, hypothyroidism and chronic fatigue.
In contrast, raw foods are presented as detoxifying, easier to digest and most conducive to weight loss and optimal health.
Summary: The 80/10/10 Diet promotes the consumption of raw foods because cooked foods are viewed as nutritionally inferior, toxic and damaging to the human body.
What to Eat on the 80/10/10 Diet
The rules surrounding the 80/10/10 Diet are relatively simple.
People who follow the diet are encouraged to focus on eating raw, low-fat plant foods.
The 80/10/10 Diet first and foremost promotes the consumption of low-fat, raw and unprocessed fruit and soft greens.
- Other squashes
This diet doesn’t restrict the intake of sweet fruit, and all types are technically allowed. Here are a few examples.
This category includes soft greens, such as:
- Leafy greens
Other types of vegetables can also be consumed, including cabbage, celery, broccoli and cauliflower. However, they’re seen as harder to digest so shouldn’t make up the biggest proportion of the diet.
The diet recommends you limit these to less than 10% of total calories.
- Durian fruit
- Nuts and seeds
Summary: To achieve the 80/10/10 diet ratio, it’s recommended that 90–97% of your calories come from sweet and non-sweet fruits, 2–6% from leafy greens and 0–8% from other vegetables, fatty fruits, nuts and seeds.
What to Avoid on the Diet
People who follow this diet are meant to avoid cooked, high-fat and protein-rich foods. The 80/10/10 Diet discourages its followers from eating the following:
- Meat and seafood: Including red meat, chicken, fish and other sea animals.
- Eggs: Including eggs from all birds and any products containing them.
- Dairy products: Including milk, cheese, yogurt and ice cream.
- Processed fats: Including butter, margarine, vegetable oil and nut oils.
- Cooked, dehydrated and processed foods: This eliminates most grains, starchy vegetables, beans, peas, lentils, dried fruit, baked goods and junk food.
- Taste enhancers: This eliminates foods containing added sugars, artificial sweeteners, monosodium glutamate (MSG), hydrolyzed vegetable protein, sodium caseinate, natural flavoring or spices.
- Certain beverages: Including alcohol, coffee, tea, soft drinks and energy drinks. Fruit and vegetable smoothies or water are the preferred beverages on this diet.
Summary: The 80/10/10 Diet recommends avoiding high-protein, high-fat, cooked or otherwise processed foods. These include meat, eggs and dairy.
What Are the Benefits?
The 80/10/10 diet is touted to provide a wide variety of health benefits. However, only a few are actually supported by science.
The 80/10/10 Diet claims to provide several health benefits.
For starters, its high carb content supposedly helps prevent eating disorders, fends off severe food cravings and improves symptoms including lethargy and weakness.
On the other hand, its low content of protein and fat is said to offer protection against cancer, diabetes, organ failure, weak bones and heart disease.
In addition, the diet recommends against cooked food with the aim of preventing chronic fatigue, hypothyroidism and arthritis.
Other alleged benefits of the 80/10/10 Diet include weight loss, clearer sinuses, easier breathing, better sleep, clearer skin, heightened mental clarity and an overall longer, healthier life.
Benefits Supported by Science
Despite the wide variety of benefits the 80/10/10 Diet is said to produce, only a select few are actually supported by science.
The biggest advantage of the diet is that it encourages its followers to eat unprocessed fruits and vegetables.
Research consistently links a higher consumption of fruits and vegetables, as part of a balanced diet, with a lower risk of illnesses including heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, dementia and certain types of cancer .
There’s also evidence that diets that provide less than 10% of total calories from fat can help lower blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels .
Several studies further report that vegan diets, in general, may help lower the risk of heart disease, reduce blood sugar levels, increase insulin sensitivity and lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 78% .
Moreover, several high-quality studies report that low-fat vegan diets are particularly effective for weight loss .
However, although there is scientific evidence to support some aspects of the 80/10/10 Diet, it’s noteworthy that no strong scientific evidence could be found to support the benefits linked to consuming nutrients in this particular ratio.
There is also no strong scientific evidence to support the remaining list of alleged health benefits.
Summary: Some aspects of the 80/10/10 Diet may help you lose weight and lower your risk of certain diseases. However, many health benefits are exaggerated and lack strong scientific evidence.
What Are the Major Drawbacks?
The 80/10/10 Diet suffers from several potential downsides.
High Food Volumes
The 80/10/10 Diet promotes a very high intake of carbs and a limited intake of protein and fats.
Let’s say your body requires 2,000 calories per day, on average.
You would need to eat around 6 lbs (3.3 kg) of fruit, 4 lbs (1.8 kg) of vegetables and two tablespoons of nuts each day to meet your needs.
This volume of food is larger than most people are accustomed to. Those who struggle to eat such large volumes of food may have difficulty meeting their daily calorie and nutrient requirements.
Low Protein and Fat Intakes
The 80/10/10 Diet recommends limiting your intake of protein and fats to 10% of total calories each.
Although there is scientific evidence to support the benefits of a low-fat diet, there is currently limited evidence to support the 10% cutoff point.
That’s because studies generally compare low-fat diets to the high-fat American diet, which typically provides more than 30% of calories from fat.
Even if a very low-fat diet is shown to be healthier than the standard American diet, that doesn’t mean that a moderate-fat diet is unhealthy.
There’s little proof that consuming fewer than 10% of calories from fat is any more beneficial than consuming a diet of 15% or 20% fat, for instance.
In addition, there’s no strong evidence that you’ll achieve health benefits if you restrict both protein and fat to less than 10% each of total calories.
While these low protein and fat levels may theoretically be sufficient to meet basic biological needs, there are several advantages to consuming more than the minimum daily amount of protein your body requires.
For instance, adding a little more protein to meals can help guard against hunger, reduce cravings and promote bone health. A little extra protein can also help preserve muscle mass, especially during a period of weight loss .
Similarly, a little extra dietary fat may also fend off hunger .
In addition, dietary fats help your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins more easily and are required to keep your skin, hair and brain healthy. Thus, restricting them too severely can become worrisome .
Insufficient Vitamin B12
Another big criticism of the 80/10/10 Diet is that it may limit intake of certain nutrients, including vitamin B12.
Several studies show that while anyone can have low vitamin B12 levels, vegetarians and vegans, especially those not taking any supplements, are at a higher risk of deficiency .
Vitamin B12 serves important roles in protein metabolism, the formation of oxygen-transporting red blood cells and the health of your nervous system .
Too little vitamin B12 can lead to anemia, nervous system damage, infertility, bone disease and heart disease .
The 80/10/10 Diet assumes that humans already produce sufficient amounts of vitamin B12 themselves and can get the rest from organically grown produce. However, no scientific evidence could be found to support these statements.
Thus, anyone thinking of trying this diet should strongly consider taking a vitamin B12 supplement. The current recommended daily intake is 2.4 mcg per day .
Iodine is another nutrient of concern in the 80/10/10 Diet. Dr. Graham recommends avoiding salt. This includes iodized salt and seaweed — two good sources of iodine.
Individuals following vegan diets already tend to have 50% lower blood iodine levels than vegetarians. Avoiding these two sources of iodine may put followers of the 80/10/10 Diet at an increased risk of iodine deficiency .
Iodine is crucial for the healthy functioning of the thyroid gland, which controls your metabolism. Thus, insufficient dietary intake can cause low energy levels, dry skin, tingling in the hands and feet, forgetfulness, depression and even weight gain .
Summary: The 80/10/10 Diet provides insufficient amounts of certain nutrients. It also requires a large intake of food, which may be difficult.
Other Downsides of This Diet
In addition to the nutrient deficiencies mentioned above, this diet has several other downsides.
It Exaggerates the Negative Effects of Cooked Foods and Spices
The 80/10/10 Diet recommends that followers minimize their intake of herbs and spices.
The rationale is that these ingredients allegedly irritate your gut, increase mucus production and deliver toxins to the nervous system.
However, there is no strong scientific evidence to support this belief. In fact, there’s a lot of evidence to the contrary.
Scientific research supports the use of spices for health, and has demonstrated the anti-diabetic effects of cinnamon, the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric and the immunity-boosting properties of garlic .
It Unfairly Demonizes Cooked Foods
The diet also presents cooked foods as nutritionally inferior, toxic and the cause of many diseases.
It is true that cooking can reduce the nutrient content of certain foods. However, different cooking methods have different effects on nutrient loss.
The overall best technique for minimizing nutrient loss seems to be cooking foods for short periods at low temperatures with minimal water.
That said, there is no strong scientific evidence supporting the belief that all cooked foods are toxic to your body or increase your risk of disease.
In fact, certain cooked foods can be nutritious and healthy. For instance, research shows that regular consumption of legumes may reduce your risk of colorectal cancer by 9–18% .
What’s more, some foods are more nutritious cooked than raw. For instance, cooking increases the nutrient availability in asparagus, mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes and carrots .
It’s Not Sustainable Over the Long Term
Another potential downside of the 80/10/10 Diet is that it may be difficult to follow for the long-term. For instance, you might have a hard time finding suitable meal options in restaurants or other social situations.
In addition, the diet restricts how much protein and fat you’re allowed to eat.
While the 80/10/10 Diet is likely high in fiber, it contains very little protein, which may lead to increased feelings of hunger in certain individuals. This may make it more difficult to sustain this diet over the long term .
It’s Largely Based on Pseudoscience
The 80/10/10 Diet makes several other claims that aren’t supported by science.
For instance, no strong scientific evidence could be found to support the claim that all types of cooked foods, regardless of cooking method, increase the risk of disease.
Other unsubstantiated claims include those surrounding gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley.
The 80/10/10 Diet claims that gluten is highly addictive and can lead to serious neurological disorders. However, no scientific evidence supports this claim.
Finally, the 80/10/10 Diet makes frequent reference to the idea that certain foods are “acidifying” to the body and thus promote disease.
This concept, popular among proponents of the alkaline diet, is based on the idea that certain foods can acidify the blood by lowering its pH level. In turn, this “acidification” is thought to be harmful to your bones and increase the risk of cancer.
However, this concept is not supported by science. In fact, several studies show that the foods you eat have a very limited effect on the pH of your blood .
That’s because the human body is designed to tightly regulate the pH of your blood, always keeping it slightly alkaline.
What’s more, research does not support the idea that “acidifying” diets increase the risk of cancer or are harmful to your bones .
For a more in-depth review of the alkaline diet myth, read this article.
Summary: The 80/10/10 Diet relies on pseudoscience and exaggerates the negative effects of certain nutrients or foods. It’s also not likely to be sustainable over time.
Should You Try It?
The 80/10/10 Diet promotes the intake of healthy fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
However, it is also overly restrictive, not based on science and likely to restrict your intake of important nutrients.
Overall, this diet could make it difficult for you to meet your nutritional needs, which is why you should avoid it.