I read an annoying article on the BBC website last week and it has been stuck in my mind ever since. So I hoped that venting my feelings here might get rid of them in time for Christmas!
The article's title was "Top five celeb diets to avoid in 2018, according to dieticians". So it started with a spelling mistake; read on to see if it got any better.
The diets included the Raw Vegan, Alkaline, Pioppi and Ketogenic diets, as well as Katie Price's Nutritional Supplements. So only one celebrity there then!
What we got was actually a glossed-over review of a report from the British Dietetic Association, who seem to want to have a pop at celebrities who, just like the rest of us, want to loose weight. Apart from one exception, the report just listed the diets under review and found some celebs who happen to use those diets. I suspect that this was the main draw of the BBC article, a picture of Katie Price. I was so impressed that I copied it for my post.
The treatment of the Vegan diet was strange, it actually sounded rather good to me, and apart from saying that potatoes shouldn't be eaten raw it gave little to explain why you should avoid such a diet.
The Alkaline diet got a slightly fuller review, in particular the statement that "according to Cancer Research UK, while eating more fruit and vegetables may help you lose weight, the pH of your food will not impact the pH of your blood". I was underwhelmed by the list of celebrities endorsing the diet: Tom Brady and the Duchess of York; oh, and Gwyneth Paltrow, which reminds me - diet means a way of eating, not a weight loss plan. The BDA clearly do not agree with me here!
With Katie Price Nutritional Supplements the article hit its target market at last. There was a great picture of Katie (wouldn’t we all like to look like her?) and the diet promises rapid weight loss. Katie’s shakes are much like any other meal replacement shakes, if you can stand them you will lose weight but are they nutritionaly balanced and how long can you seriously keep it up for?
Now we moved on to the Pioppi Diet, and I have to admit that this is the reason I started reading the article in the first place. The BDA accused the authors of "hijacking" the Mediterranean diet with their agenda, saying it was "ridiculous" to include coconut oil or cauliflower for a pizza base as one of their suggestions.
Let's be clear here, the BDA are saying that it is ridiculous to replace an unhealthy ingredient, Flour, with a healthy one, Cauliflower. The diet is aiming to reduce the carbohydrate content of our diets, it does this by suggesting that we eat healthy vegetables as replacements for nutrient-free fattening carbohydrates; Cauli-rice for rice, Courgetti for spagetti. What is ridiculous about this? No this is not typical Mediterranean food but the book clearly states that it is an approach that combines the best of historical evidence and new science. It does not say that this is what the people of Pioppi eat every day.
And then the BBC article quotes the the British Nutrition Foundation who state here that:
"The advice to cut out starchy carbohydrates such as bread, pasta and rice is inconsistent with a Mediterranean dietary pattern, which typically includes these foods (mostly wholegrains) at every meal".
Perhaps I eat in the wrong resteraunts but as far as I am aware in traditional Italian meals pasta tends to be used in small quantities as a starter sometimes and the main course is typicaly meat or fish with veg. Puddings are rarely sweet. When Registered Dietitians say things like this it makes you wonder where they get their cherished certificates from - Pizza Hut perhaps?
The BBC then redeem themselves by giving the author a chance to respond:
"The Pioppi Diet is an independent evaluation that marries the secrets of one of the world's healthiest villages with the latest medical, nutrition and exercise research to bust many myths prevalent in today's weight loss and health industries. It has received endorsements from a number of eminent international doctors, dieticians, Cochrane researchers and sports scientists."
Just one thing missing here - Celebrities! Unless, like the BDA, you count Keith Vaz and Andy Burnham, whose job it is to try and reduce the burden on the NHS caused by poor nutritional advice. Other then these C-list celebs there is just a bunch of doctors and scientists trying to help people make healthy choices.
Lastly we get the Ketogenic Diet. The BDA report actually makes this diet sound rather good: "If you're cutting out carbs, such as pasta, you're cutting out creamy sauce. If you're cutting out bread, you're cutting out butter. If you're cutting out biscuits, you're cutting out sugar." - Yes, that is the whole point, well nearly; the mention of butter suggests that they still prefer the bread in the sarny not the butter,
The list of side-effects is disengenuous, they are not common and they quickly go away - unlike the diseases the diet is trying to prevent! They mention deprivation of vitamins and minerals, but they don't mention which ones they are referring to. Is there something good in pasta that we don't get from vegetables and natural fats? No, there is not.
They also state that most of the initial weight loss seen is often associated with water/fluid losses; this is a schoolboy/girl error; of course it is! Initially you loose the glycogen (and water) that you used to rely on, then you start burning fat. Either they are trying to misslead or they are just playing stupid! Yes this diet takes careful planning to maintain, but that is bound to be true of all successful diets, if it were not then we wouldn't need the BDA, would we?
I actually think that the "problem" with the Keto and Pioppi diets (they are almost the same thing of course) is that you do not need a Dietitian to help you adopt them. Just a friendly web site written by doctors trying to help you live longer.
It is clear from the outset that the the BDA are a bit miffed. They don't like the fact that doctors and celebrities might dissagree with some of the things that they say. According to their website this report was "eagerly anticipated" , I expect that this is because Dietitians like to indulge in a bit of character assassination at this happy time of year.
The article started with these wise words from Sian Porter of the BDA: "If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is."
Well Sian, the Pioppi diet does not sound too good to be true. It just sounds like wise advice from a rather clever cardiologist who is just trying to keep as many of us as possible off his operating table.
And lastly the BDA proudly state this at the foot of their report:
" Uniquely, 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."
Perhaps this is what pisses me off the most. This arrogant sense of natural superiority is probably part of the reason that our dietary guidelines have remained so badly wrong for such a long time. The notion that only a registered dietition can read a scientific report and disseminate the contents to the wider public is preposterous.