Health strategy for the New Year
Friday 5 January 2018

Now the New Year is here, our screens, magazines and newspapers have become saturated with the latest celebrity diets – promising amazing weight-loss and health results in short timescales. While January is a great time to think about eating healthily and exercising regularly, health experts are warning against celebrity diets which can be often be faddy, factually incorrect and in some cases even dangerous.

Raw and vegan: linked with Gwyneth Paltrow, Megan Fox and Sting

While eating raw and vegan food sounds like it can only lead to health benefits, it could actually result in long-term damage if not correctly balanced, and the diet’s claims to cure obesity and other diseases should be treated with caution, says the British Dietetic Association (BDA).

While a properly supplemented vegan diet can be healthy, the BDA says, it is not a guarantee of losing weight. It points out that ‘a vegan cake is still a cake […] and vegan foods often contain the same calories as non-vegan foods’. It also questions the benefit of raw foods, saying that as the human body can digest and be nourished by both raw and cooked foods, ‘there’s no reason to believe raw is inherently better’. 

Alkaline diet: linked with Tom Brady and the Duchess of York

Health experts have rubbished claims that consuming more alkaline foods will reduce cancer risks and improve general health.

The BDA says that the pH of food will ‘not have an impact on the pH of your blood’ and that ‘your body is perfectly capable of keeping its blood within a very specific pH range’. Cancer Research UK agrees, saying that eating alkaline foods to prevent cancer is ‘biological nonsense’. It points out that while cancer cells cannot live in an overly alkaline environment, ‘neither can any of the other cells in your body’. Supporters of the diet have also incorrectly claimed that acidic foods cause osteoporosis.

Nutritional supplements: linked with Katie Price

The verdict on nutritional supplements – including Katie Price’s Meal Replacement – is that although protein supplements can be useful in the right scenarios, they are often mis-sold and make misleading claims.

The BDA says that meal replacement products work by simply restricting calories – and ‘they do not need to be part of a healthy balanced weight loss plan’. 

Pioppi diet: linked with Keith Vaz MP and former athlete Donal O’Neill 

This low carb/high fat diet takes its name from the Italian village Pioppi, the recognised home of the Mediterranean diet. Its supporters claim that it can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. But the British Nutrition Foundation points out that ‘the advice to cut out starchy carbohydrates such as bread, pasta and rice is inconsistent with a Mediterranean dietary pattern’.

Additionally, on reviewing the evidence, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition did not find an association between total carbohydrate intake and type 2 diabetes and obesity, but found that dietary fibre – found in wholegrain foods – is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

A moderate approach

The NHS advises avoiding fad diets, and notes that most adults simply need to ‘eat less and get more active.’

It suggests making small, achievable changes, such as eating less, choosing foods that are lower in fat and sugar, cutting down on alcohol, and building physical activity into everyday routines. Suggestions also include swapping full-fat milk for skimmed milk, switching to brown bread and rice, and building up to 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week.

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