12 Dec 2019
The British Dietetic Association’s (BDA) spokespeople deal with hundreds of requests relating to food and nutrition from the media each year, as well as 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.
These experts have identified five of the wildest diet fads they’ve come across this past year so you can be sure to avoid them in 2020.
1. Fat Shaming
Who’s a fan? Bill Maher, Piers Morgan
What’s it all about?
Celebs like Bill Maher and Piers Morgan have called for the ‘return of fat shaming’ this year. They argue that shaming and humiliating people for the size of their body will encourage them to lose weight. These ideas have been common for a while, and shaming people for the size of their bodies has been used to sell everything from women’s magazines to laxative teas.
BDA Verdict: The Shame Game Is Bad For Every Body!
“In short, fat shaming is draining on human health,” Katherine Kimber, BDA Spokesperson and Registered Dietitian says. “There is clear evidence to suggest that shaming people because of their size, will not improve health. In fact, it's been linked to widespread exclusion, marginalisation, avoidance of accessing healthcare, reduced physical activity and poorer psychological and physical health.
“Rather, focusing on positive health behaviours and taking the microscope off of body weight and size is a positive alternative approach. This approach is not about encouraging people to give up on health. It's about recognising the complexities of body weight, and understanding that weight is not a behaviour. It's very complex. It's also about supporting all bodies, regardless of size, to have equal access to health. Because Every Body is worthy, and Every Body matters.”
2. IV Drips
Who’s a fan? Rihanna, Chrissy Teigen
What’s it all about?
Promoters of intravenous (IV) vitamin drips claim they can do almost anything, including quickly fixing a hangover, boosting energy levels, burning fat, fighting jet lag or strengthening the immune system.
BDA verdict: I’Ve heard better ideas
There is no evidence that taking vitamins via an IV drip has any benefits for most people, and this invasive procedure can be dangerous. As Marcela Fiuza, BDA Spokesperson and Registered Dietitian explains; “Any time you have an IV inserted, there is a risk of infection as well as risk that a vein could become inflamed or blocked with a clot (a condition called thrombophlebitis). This risk is increased when unqualified people are doing it.
“There is also a concerning risk that you will get too much of the vitamins without knowing. This can have serious health implications, particularly for those having it regularly. People living with health conditions (known or unknown) are also at particular risk for this.
“Even if no complications occur, you will probably just excrete at least 90% of what’s being infused – it is literally money down the toilet. For most people, a healthy balanced diet (and in some cases an oral vitamin supplement) is sufficient to provide all the vitamins and minerals you need.”
3. Beyoncé’s 22-day diet
Who’s a fan? Beyoncé of course
What’s it all about?
This diet is based around the pretence of 21 days being enough to make or break a habit, hence a 22 days nutrition diet. With the goal that come day 22 you will be a convert and stick to eating a vegan plant-based diet. This way of eating is said to have huge health benefits due to cutting out processed foods and reducing meat consumption. The plan isn’t available in the UK but in the USA the cost is $39 per quarter or $99 for the year.
BDA verdict: Beyhave! This is too short to make an impact
“If you had the skills and knowledge on how to eat a plant-based diet, then you could do this on your own, using your own recipes and adapting your current recipes, without the expense” explains Anna Daniels, BDA Spokesperson and Registered Dietitian. “A few reviews of the diet online call out some issues with the variety of unusual ingredients and preparation time. I am a believer in eating right and planning, however it does have to work for you - if it’s too hard it won’t happen. Beyoncé also may very well have had a personal chef creating the plan for her which would have made it far easier to stick to.
“This could be a good way for someone to want to kick start a better way of eating and reduce their intake of high fat, high salt foods. However, it will certainly take longer than 22 days to eat optimally and for good health and longevity!”
4. Hair Gummies
Who’s a fan? Celebs like the Kardashian-Jenner’s (Khloé, Kim, Kylie, Kourtney & Kris) and Vanessa Hudgens have all promoted these gummies on Instagram
What’s it all about
These hair gummies are over-priced multivitamins targeted at those of us who are unhappy with our hair. Celebs and influencers with hairdressers on tap, hair extensions and naturally gorgeous hair are promoting these as ‘must have products’ at £20-30 each month.
BDA Verdict: We’re not hair for this one!
Aisling Pigott, BDA Spokesperson and Registered Dietitian, shares her view. “Another celeb, another false nutrition claim. Hair and skin health are influenced by many factors including lifestyle, hormones, genetics and diet. However, to imply that taking a vitamin tablet can ‘give us better hair’ is based on zero evidence. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies which affect our hair are rare, but an overall poor diet can impact our hormones and stress levels.
“This is irresponsible advertising from celebrities endorsing products which lack scientific evidence. If you want to get the best out of your hair (and save some cash), enjoy a healthy, balanced diet with the right amount of energy, fruit and vegetables.”
5. Glacce Amethyst Bottles
Who’s a fan? Victoria Beckham, Gwyneth Paltrow
What’s it all about?
Crystal infused water from your very own gemstone water bottle allows you to drink healing water or ‘Crystal Elixir’ anytime, anywhere! They claim that iron and minerals along with the healing properties of certain crystals are released into the water, which you can then drink and reap the benefits. Each crystal supposedly has its own benefits such as helping with insomnia, promoting energy, improving mood or relieving stress.
BDA Verdict: It’s crystal clear this is nonsense!
“As much as I would be the first person to support adequate hydration as the backbone of health,” says Claire Pettitt, BDA Spokesperson and Registered Dietitian, “there is absolutely no evidence to support any benefit of adding crystals to your water. There is limited research looking at crystal elixirs and so the health benefits claimed to occur with these magical drinks are simply not evidenced-based.
“Sure, you will feel good if you improve your hydration. Yes, concentrate on drinking more water if you need to, but at the end of the day I wouldn’t waste your money on a water bottle with an inbuilt crystal. Get a reusable stainless steel one instead and help reduce your plastic use and protect the environment whilst keeping hydrated!”
Support and compassion, not shame and quick fixes
Caroline Bovey, BDA Chair and Registered Dietitian, is keen to stress that making people feel bad about themselves does not encourage healthy behaviours. “It does, however, create an environment which makes people feel more vulnerable and opens up marketing opportunities through which to sell people the kinds of products and diets we list every year. Magic bullets and empty promises that your body size, hair, nails and skin will finally be ‘right’, you will gain all the energy you need, and you will be worthy of love/health/wealth/happiness!
“Obesity, malnutrition and diets that don’t give us all the nutrients we need are common place. But the problems that people experience need solutions based on compassion, support and structural changes to overcome, not shame, and certainly not to humiliate or promote the idea that quick fixes and over simplistic solutions are the answer. Dietitians work with their patients to support them towards eating patterns that work for them and promote their overall health and wellbeing, whatever underlying conditions or concerns they may have. When it comes to food, diet and nutrition – trust the trained and regulated experts.”
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 9,500 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.