07 Dec 2018
The British Dietetic Association’s (BDA) spokespeople deal with hundreds of requests relating to nutrition from the media each year, as well a working with many more patients and clients who ask them about the latest celebrity or social media diet trend. Some of them are laughable, while others are potentially dangerous.
We’ve asked our dietetic experts to identify five of the wildest diet fads they’ve come across this year to help you avoid them in 2019.
1. Blood Type Diets
Who’s a fan? Cheryl Cole, Sir Cliff Richard and Hayley Baldwin are reportedly fans of this diet.
What’s it all about?
This diet is based completely on pseudo-science. It claims that foods are tolerated and broken down differently in the body depending on a person’s blood type. There are different variations but one popular one states:
- Blood Group A – No dairy products allowed and a vegetarian-based diet.
- Blood Group B – A more varied intake of food.
- Blood Group AB – Combination of diets A and B (confused yet? Yes or no to dairy?).
- Blood Group O – High protein intake, no dairy, no wheat, no alcohol or caffeine.
All blood groups are advised to take various supplements and herbal remedies along with exercise - the type also depends on your blood group.
BDA Verdict: Makes our blood boil!
There is no scientific evidence for this diet. You’ll need to know your blood type and your GP would be less than thrilled if you booked an appointment to find out just so you can follow this. People lose weight on the Blood Type Diet because one way or another it’s restricting what they eat, including calories. Essentially, followers of the diet are cutting out less healthy foods, changing and restricting what they eat, and cutting calories from their daily food intake.
Dietitian and BDA Spokesperson Sian Porter says “This potentially hard to follow diet can be restrictive, expensive and socially isolating. Cutting out food groups is never a good idea (unless advised to do so by a doctor or dietitian) and careful substitutions need to be made to keep your diet in balance. For example, cutting out dairy can reduce calcium intake so other sources of calcium need to be increased or included. Any diet plan that includes special supplements should set off alarm bells.”
2. Drinking your own pee
Who’s a fan? Boxer Juan Manuel Marquez, Yoga Teacher Kayleigh Oakley
What’s it all about?
This form of hydration is promoted by some of its advocates as a 'cleansing, immune-boosting, energy giving, nutrient rich drink'. If this sounds too good to be true – it’s because the magic liquid is your own urine. Some advocate only drinking certain parts of your wee.
BDA Verdict: If you seriously believe in this fad, urine trouble.
What is there to say? Dietitian and BDA Spokesperson Aisling Pigott, “There is no evidence or advice which would encourage anybody to drink their own urine. The body, in particular the kidneys, does an effective job at removing toxins and excretes urine as a waste product. Therefore, drinking this again is not beneficial, could potentially be harmful and put you at risk of infection.”
3.Detox Teas / Skinny Coffee
Who’s a fan? Cardi B, Kim Kardashian, Khloe Kardashian and Marnie Simpson have all claimed their weight loss/maintenance is down to one of these products.
What’s it all about?
These kinds of weight loss drinks have been around for ages and they just won’t go away.
You’ve probably already seen them promoted all over social media by a slim, attractive celebrity or wellness blogger who claims that if you drink this you will lose weight and look like them. They are drinks, usually teas or coffees, marketed at helping you to lose weight or ‘detox’ your body.
BDA verdict: Tea-rifying. These don’t encourage a healthy lifestyle and tend to target young people who may not even need to lose weight.
There is no magic drink that you can take that is going to help you achieve or maintain a healthy weight.
According to Dietitian and BDA Spokesperson Chloe Hall, “the best-case scenario is that you are going to spend a lot of money on a product that is going to have no effect. Most of these drinks contain herbs that have very little evidence of promoting weight loss.
"The worst-case scenario is that you’re going to end up spending a lot of time in the bathroom. Some of these teas contain Senna, which is a laxative. This can leave you with stomach cramps and diarrhoea. Long-term laxative abuse is dangerous and can leave you with ongoing gut issues.”
Some of these products also contain caffeine which, when drunk in large quantities, can leave people feeling anxious, shaky and with heart palpitations.
4. Slimming Sachets
Who’s a fan? Prince Harry and Princess Eugenie are both reported to have used these sachets in the run-up to their respective weddings in 2018.
What’s it about?
Gabriella Peacock is a former model, turned nutritional therapist. According to her website, she is “pioneering a new way to take supplements.”
There are a few different products for sale on the website, but the main one packaged for weight loss – and apparently taken by royalty – is a supplement called “Slim Me”, which costs £100 a month.
This box contains a glucomannan powder, a bulk forming fibre, which is made up into a drink three times a day, and taken prior to a meal to “supress hunger”. There are also “detox” capsules and “digestive support” capsules, which are taken alongside the drinks. The packaging claims, “these biointense formulations provide your complete daily dose of nutrition.” At 12kcal per drink sachet we are less than convinced.
Our verdict: This is pop-Peacock! These supplements, and the thousands of others like them, are absolutely not essential for successful weight loss.
We are always sceptical of anyone selling supplements, promising miraculous results, for their own financial gain. Losing weight takes a lot of effort, and in order for it to be sustainable long-term, it is also slow! So, it’s not a surprise that many people are drawn in by the promise of faster weight loss, feelings of fullness and a faster metabolism.
In reality, each fibre drink provides less fibre than you could get by having a slice of wholegrain bread. And, glucomannan is a bulk-forming laxative, which means that if you don’t need the laxative effect, you may get diarrhoea, bloating and flatulence as side effects! They are also potentially dangerous to those with diabetes, which is worrying considering part of the sell here is about “balancing blood sugar”.
The marketing of these sachets spread the idea that we should be “supressing” our appetite and fighting our bodies. Not only is this untrue, but it can also be emotionally harmful. Dietitian and BDA Spokesperson Jennifer Low reminds us that “whilst companies like these may have great marketing stats on how much people have lost whilst taking the product – have a think about what might happen once you no longer want to spend £100 a month on these – unless you change your lifestyle for good the weight will go straight back on.
"As a country we are very good at demonising certain foods and body shapes – let’s try to learn to accept our bodies and work with them, not against them, to be healthier.”
Any slimming supplements are unnecessary, and in some cases harmful. For most of us just changing to a healthier, balanced, varied overall diet will provide all the essential vitamins and minerals you require* for your metabolism to work optimally – you do not need extra from supplements like these.
* for certain population groups vitamin and mineral supplements are necessary – please discuss this with your GP or Dietitian, or have a look at the BDA fact sheets for more information.
5. Alkaline Water
Who’s a fan? Many big names are reported to be fans of alkaline water, including: Donald Trump, Barak Obama, Beyonce, Bill Gates, Madonna, Robert Downey Jr. and many others.
What’s it about?
We may be awash with faddy waters before too long!
Alkaline water has a higher pH level than regular drinking water as it contains alkalising compounds including calcium, silica, potassium, magnesium, and bicarbonate. Because of this, some people believe that alkaline water helps our bodies metabolise nutrients and expel toxins more efficiently than regular tap water, leading to better health and performance.
Other people believe in the need for an alkaline diet to try to reduce the acidity of your blood, which they believe causes health problems.
Normal drinking water generally has a neutral pH of 7. Alkaline water typically claims to have a pH of 8 or 9.
BDA Verdict: H2NO! Whilst drinking more water is a good thing for your overall health and hydration, don’t waste your money on expensive water, when it’s something you can get free out of a tap.
Most of us know that water is a big deal. In fact, our bodies are largely made up of the stuff. Unfortunately, this diet is based on a basic misunderstanding of human physiology and is not backed up by firm evidence.
Your body is usually perfectly capable of regulating pH itself, and there’s no need to tamper with this. pH varies significantly in different parts of the body – for example, the stomach is very acidic in order to help digest food, the intestines then neutralise this acidity when food and drink pass into them.
Dietitian and BDA Spokesperson Kaitlin Colucci says “whilst encouraging people to drink more water is a good thing, the pH of water will not have an impact on the pH of your blood – and you wouldn’t want it to. Your body is perfectly capable of keeping its blood within a very specific pH range (pH 7.35 to 7.45). If it failed to do so, you would become ill very quickly. Most people also have a perfectly healthy liver and kidneys to eliminate any toxins from your body themselves.”
Interestingly, when some alkaline waters have been tested with pH strips the pH is in-fact 7.0 (7.5 at a push). All a marketing ploy perhaps?
Endless fads, endless sales opportunities
Dr Duane Mellor, Dietitian and BDA Council Member, commenting on the celebrity supplement and diets which seem to grab headlines and produce seemingly endless numbers of products:
“It seems that every year more and more products hit our shelves wrapped in promises of easy weight loss or boosted energy levels, the evidence behind many of these products is very limited, but they still charge a high price. The truth is there are many ways to eat a healthy diet, and many of the improvements we can make and enjoy in our diets do not have to break the bank.
"Often it is a case of trying to eat more and a greater variety of fruit and vegetables, less highly processed foods switching to wholegrains along with moderate amounts of meat, dairy and alternatives.
“Dietitians are perfectly placed to support people on the diet that is best for them, it’s not about promoting one perfect way of eating (as there simply isn’t one). It’s not a good plan to change your diet based on an unscientific or pseudoscientific claim just because a book, celebrity or social media post proclaims their ‘miraculous’ effects. Instead, seek to build a way of eating that has a sound scientific basis and suits your health and budget, as well as taste and cultural preferences.”
For more information / interview requests, please contact the BDA Press Office on:
0800 048 1714 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to the Editor:
- The British Dietetic Association (BDA), founded in 1936, is the professional association and trade union for dietitians in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is the nation’s largest organisation of food and nutrition professionals with over 9,000 members.
- Dietitians are highly qualified health professionals that assess, diagnose and treat diet and nutrition problems at an individual and wider public health level. They are statutorily regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), alongside other Allied Health Professions.
- Dietitians use the most up to date public health and scientific research on food, health and disease, which they translate into practical guidance to enable people to make appropriate lifestyle and food choices. They work in the NHS, private practice, industry, education, research, sport, media and government. Their advice influences food and health policy across the spectrum from government and global industry to local communities and individuals.
- Learn more about eating for health from the BDA food fact sheets www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts