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Diets of the Rich and Famous: The truth behind the glamour.

You only have to flick through any glossy magazine to find one “revolutionary” diet plan or another. Claims of rapid, dramatic weight loss and the resulting “essential” pencil thin figure lead us to think this must be the miracle we have all been looking for! But just what is so special about the “en vogue” regimes used by the stars, and more importantly how safe are they?
The Blood Group Diet:
It suggests that certain foods (according to your blood type) will rid the body of toxins and fat. The diet varies for each type, for example a person with an O blood type, freely eats seafood, red meat, soya milk and most fruit and vegetables, but cuts out wheat, potatoes, dairy products and some vegetables. Any weight loss on this diet is likely to be attributable to a simple reduction in calories rather than any supposed physiological response to food related to blood type. Apart from leaving you hungry most of the time, this diet is going to be pretty expensive and could also be lacking in fibre, essential fatty acids and calcium unless fortified soya products are used.
The Atkins Diet:
Selling over 10 million copies worldwide and outdoing both Harry Potter and the Bible the Atkins Diet is based on restricting carbohydrate to as little as 15g per day and indulging in high protein and high fat foods. Three important studies in 2003 showed results in the first stage of the diet to be consistent with most weight loss plans, but in the long term the studies showed the diet and weight loss difficult to maintain. The jury is still out on the long term safety of the regime and there are concerns about the increased risk of nutrient deficiencies, constipation and ketosis as well as kidney and heart health.
Low Glycaemic diets:
The Glycaemic index (GI) and Glycaemic load (GL) are tools used to measure the rate at which carbohydrates are absorbed as glucose into the blood stream. The evidence suggests that controlling fluctuating blood sugars by including more low or “slow” GI foods like pulses, new potatoes and oats at meal times food cravings and high calorie grazing can be reduced. The clinical data to support the use of low GI foods as part of a healthy diet and active lifestyle show that as well as helping weight control the risks of heart disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome may also be reduced. The system can be confusing for consumers although there are now one or two good quality GI and GL diet books written by dietitians which are easy to follow and understand. Many supermarkets now label their own brand Low GI foods and several of their competitors are set to follow this example.  
The Zone:
The main gist of this regime is a low carbohydrate/high protein diet (like the Atkins diet) along with a rigorous, intensive exercise routine. Anything that is low in carbohydrate and high in protein can be eaten. Over a long period the combination of exercise and low carbohydrate intake will lead to the breakdown of muscle stores, reduce performance and general fatigue. Competitive sports men and women swear by a diet of high carbohydrate, often “loading up” with starchy food in the days leading up to an event so this plan contradicts medical and sports science. It’s difficult to imagine how followers of this diet are going to be able to maintain the relentless exercise without the right kind of fuel and nutrients.
The Hay Diet:
Food combining means eating starch and protein separately and only eating fruit before a meal or a couple of hours after. There is no scientific evidence to suggest that food combing works. Some people say that they feel better and do lose weight following the diet, however any resulting weight loss is likely to be due to the simple fact that less food is being eaten. In practical terms, it can be every difficult to maintain a “normal” life on this regime, eating out, socialising and feeding a family can all be inconvenient and just plain hard work!
Detox diets:
Usually based on fruit, vegetables, seeds and herb or fruit infused water with limited wheat-free grains and oils. The range of detox plans are often sold on the pretence of their “cleansing health benefits”, but in truth the resultant and often dramatic weight loss is down to simple calorie restriction and is usually short lived. Health professionals have genuine concerns about people frequently coming on and off detox plans or following them for any length of time. They are nutritionally incomplete and rapid weight loss can exacerbate the yo-yo diet effect. Detoxing for a day or two is unlikely to do you any harm but it can never be a permanent solution to weight control.
The Cabbage Soup Diet:
Most of us spent our childhood loathing it, but now it’s touted as one of the hottest ingredients in the wonder diet world! The humble cabbage, made into soup and eaten every day with the addition of fruit, vegetables and occasionally meat will ensure rapid weight loss due a very low calorie intake, rather than to any undiscovered magical properties of the cabbage. A diet that would be impossible and dangerous to maintain over a long period. Personally, if I was looking for this kind of rapid weight loss I think the removal of a limb would be preferable to this regime!
So, what is the answer to achieving a healthy, maintainable weight?. Unfortunately there is no magic formula. A healthy diet, plenty of physical activity and perhaps most importantly a change in your way of thinking is the only way to manage your weight forever. Successful weight control has to fit into your life and be realistic for you. Don’t despair, it is not only for the rich and famous, it’s something we can all achieve providing we get the right mixture of education, support and advice.
Nigel Denby is a Registered Dietitian specialising in Women’s Health. He is Dietitian to Hammersmith and Queen Charlotte Hospital Menopause Clinic and runs his own private practice in Harley St. Nigel works extensively with the media writing for the Sunday Telegraph, Zest and Essentials as well as appearing on television and radio. Nigel’s first book, Diet Freedom the GL diet is published by John Blake (£7.99).
To arrange a consultation telephone 07941 396610.

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