Don’t swallow those New Year diet book myths: Experts give verdicts on claim that milk can cause cancer, celery juice heals diseases… and, no, Gwyneth Paltrow, you don’t need a 24-hour fast on just water and herbal tea
- Britons buy millions of ‘New Year, New You’ diet and wellness manuals each year
- One celebrity doctor believes the food you eat should reflect your personality
- Another links milk to postpartum psychosis – due to ‘traces of opiates’ in dairy
- And one writer claims that cancer can be healed by consuming ‘bone broth’
It’s that time of year again. In the coming weeks, millions of us will pledge to banish carbs, take up a new exercise regime and invest in a juicer – all in aid of a healthy kick-start to the year.
At the heart of the ‘New Year, New You’ trend lies a plethora of diet and wellness manuals, lining the shelves of bookshops nationwide.
Britons buy millions of them every year, hoping they hold the secret to fast, effective weight loss and optimum health. In 2020, there are plenty to choose from. However, this year, some authors’ ideas are undoubtedly bizarre.
Take, for instance, the nutrition guru who claims ‘spirits’ told him diseases could be treated with celery juice. Or the celebrity doctor who believes the food you eat should reflect your personality. They may seem like the ideas of a fevered mind, or from a comedy sketch.
One diet book author, Anthony William, says drinking freshly pressed celery juice every day can help fight a number of serious illnesses, such as dementia and cancer. He has a regular column on Gwyneth Paltrow’s wellness site, Goop, in which he writes about ‘healing foods’
But in fact, these authors’ books are some of the most hotly anticipated. And they have an army of loyal celebrity fans, and millions of social-media followers, hanging on their every word.
Their claims are certainly outlandish, with experts criticising some for their lack of credible health qualifications and warning us against following their advice.
Professor Stephen Powis, NHS England’s national medical director, last week urged Britons to avoid ‘fad’ diets. New Year ‘quick-fixes’ are at best ineffective and at worst can be harmful, he said.
Despite such concerns, these books, without fail, reach the bestseller lists, with readers adopting often fantastic and restrictive recommendations – and some readers may well see genuine health improvements.
‘Books about unusual diets will always be popular because they offer people hope and stability, even at times when they feel unstable within themselves,’ says Dr Alan Levinovitz, author of The Gluten Lie: And Other Myths About What We Eat.
But do the books’ health claims really stack up? We called on some of the UK’s leading experts in their fields to examine the claims made in some of the latest, major diet books. If you are one of those considering forking out for one of them – and following the advice they contain – you might want to read their verdicts first.
One key claim: Drinking 450ml of celery juice regularly can heal or prevent a remarkable array of medical conditions – and can even help to reverse Alzheimer’s
THE CELERY JUICE DIET ADVICE THAT COMES FROM ‘THE SPIRIT’
Celery Juice: The Most Powerful Medicine Of Our Time, by Anthony William (Hay House Publishing, £14.99)
What’s it all about?
Who would want to drink celery juice? Well, quite a few people, it seems – including, no doubt, many of the two million Instagram followers of Anthony William, who claims to have pioneered the practice.
In this book, he says downing glasses of freshly pressed celery juice every day can help fight a number of serious illnesses, including dementia and cancer.
‘There wasn’t a symptom, condition, illness, disorder, or disease that I didn’t see benefit,’ he claims.
William is known as ‘the medical medium’ and says his diet plans are based on messages from ‘the Spirit’. So far, so far-fetched.
But his first book, Medical Medium: Secrets Behind Chronic And Mystery Illness And How To Finally Heal, was a New York Times bestseller and celebrity fans include Sylvester Stallone, Robert De Niro and model Miranda Kerr.
William has a regular column on Gwyneth Paltrow’s wellness site, Goop, in which he writes about ‘healing foods’. Reports claim he is partly responsible for the 400 per cent surge in celery sales in LA supermarkets in the past year.
Drinking 450ml of celery juice regularly can heal or prevent a remarkable array of medical conditions. It can, even, according to William’s book, help to reverse Alzheimer’s, ease multiple sclerosis and stop cancer spreading. The regime is also said to fight infections, soothe the gut, balance the body’s hormones and boost the immune system. The juice does this by removing ‘crystalised toxic salts’ that accumulate in organs, and restoring damaged cells.
Celery must be juiced, rather than eaten whole – this is the only way to access the plant’s ‘healing’ properties.
Gunter Kuhnle, professor of nutrition and food science at Reading University, said: ‘Celery contains fibre, which is nutritionally beneficial, but nothing else to give the effects claimed. I can’t think of anything that benefits nutritionally from being juiced. Usually, juicing is worse – it removes the fibre’
It does contain fibre and antioxidants such as Vitamin C and flavonoids, known to boost the immune system. But there’s no proof that celery, or its juices, are special.
In fact, juicing destroys many of the benefits.
Gunter Kuhnle, professor of nutrition and food science at Reading University, said: ‘Celery contains fibre, which is nutritionally beneficial, but nothing else to give the effects claimed. I can’t think of anything that benefits nutritionally from being juiced. Usually, juicing is worse – it removes the fibre.’
Karis Betts, Cancer Research UK’s health information manager, said extra fibre in the diet does lower cancer risk, but warned: ‘There is no wonder vegetable or food that stops or cures cancer.’
In this book, Ann Louise Gittleman warns: ‘Chemicals in everyday products hijack oestrogen receptors, sabotage energy and trick your body into storing extra fat’
RID YOUR HOME OF POLLUTANTS
Radical Metabolism: A Powerful Plan To Blast Fat And Reignite Your Energy In Just 21 Days, by Ann Louise Gittleman (Yellow Kite, £10.49)
What’s it all about?
Nutritionist and bestselling author Ann Louise Gittleman claims that one reason so many of us can’t lose weight is down to ‘household pollutants’. In her book, Gittleman claims the only way to battle this is through a strict detox diet. Other suggestions involve aluminium-proofing the kitchen, keeping digital devices away from your body and drinking purified water.
The 70-year-old American, referred to online as ‘a pioneer in dietary, environmental and women’s health’, shot to fame in 2003 with her multi-million-selling book The Fat Flush Plan.
It advocated a two-week ‘juice fast’, and a strict low-carb, 1,200-calorie-a-day, dairy- and wheat-free diet in order to ‘cleanse’ the liver and shed weight. Dr Judith Stern, vice president of the American Obesity Society, called it ‘pseudoscience’. Gittleman sells supplements via her websites for those on her plans.
Gittleman warns: ‘Chemicals in everyday products hijack oestrogen receptors, sabotage energy and trick your body into storing extra fat.’ She says microwaves are ‘not completely safe to stand next to’, while foil and aluminium pans are linked to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Drinking water should run through a filter in your home to eliminate fluoride, supposedly linked to bone and brain diseases, cancer and digestive problems.
She says that electromagnetic frequencies transmitted by phone networks can be absorbed by plants and rainwater, so ends up in food.
A ‘four-day radical cleanse’, involving consuming just bone broth and vegetable juice, followed by a longer detox, can ‘tamp down health-sabotaging free radicals’ and ‘reset’ the metabolism.
The theories outlined in Gittleman’s book are ‘mostly nonsense’, says Naveed Sattar, professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow.
‘Your metabolism – how quickly the body burns calories – cannot be reset; it rarely varies.
‘In fact, it actually increases when you put on weight to help burn the extra calories.’
And no mechanism by which electromagnetic frequencies can cause cancer has been identified, according to Cancer Research.
High-quality studies have provided no evidence that low-level radiation harms health.
While 5G does use microwave frequencies, there is no evidence that this affects plants, or infiltrates food. As for detoxing, this has no impact on liver health, says Prof Sattar. ‘It’s not like unclogging an engine. The liver doesn’t work like that.’
In a statement, Ann Louise Gittleman said: ‘In the back of my book, Radical Metabolism, you’ll find documented peer-reviewed journals that substantiate these claims.’
Dr Josh Axe claims that a collagen-rich diet heals damaged tissue in the body and ‘aids gut repair’, bringing about a wide range of health benefits
CANCER HEALED BY DRINKING BONE SOUP
The Collagen Diet, by Dr Josh Axe (Orion Spring, £14.99)
What’s it all about?
Handsome Dr Josh Axe – self-proclaimed founder of the world’s most visited natural health website– claims consuming his recipes will boost levels of collagen in the body.
Collagen is a protein found in skin, bones and muscle, responsible for giving them structure and firmness – and by consuming lots of it in the diet, we can look younger, have a healthier heart and immune system, and even live longer.
Dr Axe says he helped heal his mother’s lung cancer by feeding her collagen-rich ‘bone broth’, and avoiding ‘toxic’ drugs.
His previous books, Keto Diet, which advocates an ultra-low-carb weight-loss plan, and Eat Dirt, which claims millions suffer health problems due to a ‘leaky gut’ without realising it, are both bestsellers, and Dr Axe has more than 100,000 followers on social media thanks to his regular TV appearances.
He also promotes the widely discredited Gerson therapy, which shuns traditional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy in favour of an organic diet, supplements and coffee enemas.
Dr Axe claims that a collagen-rich diet heals damaged tissue in the body and ‘aids gut repair’, bringing about a wide range of health benefits. Eating a low-carb, ‘unprocessed’ meat-and-fish-heavy diet, and regularly consuming ‘bone broth’ – a type of meat stock – alongside collagen supplements can help achieve this, he says.
When broken down after eating, collagen releases amino acids, which turn back into collagen in the body and have a regenerative effect, he says. His diet can also help ‘fix’ leaky gut syndrome – a condition which isn’t medically recognised – in which the gut’s barrier breaks down, causing toxins to leak into the body.
Dr Josh Axe (above) is the self-proclaimed founder of the world’s most visited natural health website. While there is some evidence that collagen supplements can help painful joints, the studies are not all reliable, according to dietician Dr Duane Mellor, senior teaching fellow at Aston Medical School
While there is some evidence that collagen supplements can help painful joints, the studies are not all reliable, according to dietician Dr Duane Mellor, senior teaching fellow at Aston Medical School. ‘It’s unclear whether the repaired fibres are due to the compounds in the collagen supplements, or the result of physical training,’ he says.
A build-up of collagen in the body isn’t always a good thing.
‘How can anyone tell that the body will divert collagen to a healing process, rather than a damaging one? There’s no way of knowing this,’ says Mellor. Prof Kuhnle said he’d seen ‘no evidence’ of collagen’s general benefits.
In a statement, Dr Axe said: ‘There are many strong evidences of the benefits of collagen, and collagen supplementation is generally safe with no reported adverse events.
‘Along with medical studies, traditional Chinese medicine has recommended bone broth which is rich in collagen to support joint, skin, gut and immune health for over 3,000 years.’
According to former psychiatrist Dr Neal Barnard, meat and dairy are a factor in cancer and other ailments
VEGAN SAYS MILK MAY CAUSE CANCER
Your Body In Balance: The New Science Of Food, Hormones And Health, by Dr Neal D. Barnard (Grand Central Publishing, released February 4, 2020).
What’s it all about?
According to former psychiatrist Dr Neal Barnard, meat and dairy are a factor in cancer and other ailments. His book provides information on how food choices may affect hormones and could worsen or trigger health problems.
There are also ‘hormone-balancing’ recipes including ‘cauliflower buffalo chowder and brownie batter houmous’.
An advocate of vegan diets, Dr Barnard’s videos have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times on YouTube – thanks, no doubt, to eye-catching titles such as Dairy Is Dangerous and Eat To Beat Cancer – and he has 67,000 Twitter followers.
In previous books, Dr Barnard argued that dietary fat specifically can cause type 2 diabetes, despite studies disproving this claim.
Dr Barnard says meat and dairy contain hormones which boost the body’s levels of the sex hormone oestrogen.
This leads to erectile dysfunction and breast, prostate, ovarian and testicular cancers. Pregnant dairy cows are said to release oestrogen into their milk so cheese concentrates these hormones further.
When milk is consumed, the body produces a growth hormone which makes cancer cells ‘grow like crazy’ in lab tests, he says. He also writes about links between milk and postpartum psychosis, due to ‘traces of opiates’ in dairy.
Dr Barnard (above) says meat and dairy contain hormones which boost the body’s levels of the sex hormone oestrogen – and that this leads to erectile dysfunction and breast, prostate, ovarian and testicular cancers. Cancer Research UK says there is no strong evidence linking dairy products sold in the UK to cancer
In the UK, all animal products are subjected to rigorous testing for excess hormones before being approved for sale.
Cancer Research UK says there is no strong evidence linking dairy products sold in the UK to cancer.
Dr Mellor said: ‘Studies showing a greater risk of cancer in those consuming dairy may be more linked to weight gain or increased fat in the diet than dairy itself. It’s true dairy causes growth hormones to rise, but that’s true of lots of foods, particularly those high in fat and carbs.’
GWYNETH’S ‘CLEAN EATING’ GURU
Clean7, by Alejandro Junger (Harper One, Kindle edition £11.99)
What’s it all about?
Another ‘detox’, this time from cardiologist Dr Alejandro Junger, which involves herbal teas and supplements. The seven-day regime ‘strips your diet of energy-restricting foods’ said to cause weight gain and affect sleep.
The doctor is a hit with a Hollywood set including Gwyneth Paltrow and Naomi Campbell.
LA-based Junger claims to have treated his depression, allergies and IBS with a combination of intermittent fasting and removing processed foods such as shop-bought bread and pasta.
Another ‘detox’, this time from cardiologist Dr Alejandro Junger, which involves herbal teas and supplements. The seven-day regime ‘strips your diet of energy-restricting foods’ said to cause weight gain and affect sleep. The doctor is a hit with a Hollywood set including Gwyneth Paltrow (above) and Naomi Campbell. Dr Mellor said: ‘Your body deals with foreign compounds well. Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to make money’
Dr Junger’s cleansing rituals come from ancient Indian Ayurvedic medicine, which involves identifying your personal ‘dosha’ – linked to your personality.
Your ‘dosha’ informs which foods will most benefit or slow down your recovery from illness. Some should avoid raw foods but embrace dairy, for example, others should avoid egg yolks and vinegar.
The plan involves stripping your diet of potential allergens and processed foods then building in ingredients suited to your dosha.
The week begins with a 12-hour fast between dinner and breakfast, building to a 24-hour fast involving just herbal tea and water.
Supposed benefits include mental clarity, weight loss, energy surges and deeper sleep.
We don’t need to detox, as the liver and kidneys remove waste products and toxins.
Dr Mellor said: ‘Your body deals with foreign compounds well. Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to make money.’
However, he does say we shouldn’t dismiss Ayurvedic medicine. ‘Some people do feel a benefit,’ says Dr Mellor. ‘But claiming scientific efficacy is going too far, at this stage.’
The books to turn to for advice you really can trust
Nothing is banned from your plate in behavioural specialist Shahroo Izadi’s book
The Last Diet, by Shahroo Izadi (Bluebird, £10.49)
Nothing is banned from your plate in behavioural specialist Shahroo Izadi’s book.
‘This is the book I wish I had 20 years ago,’ says Izadi, who trained as a psychologist and lost eight stone by eliminating foods she couldn’t eat in moderation.
Most of her recommended exercises have cognitive behavioural therapy at their heart – simple brain-training techniques to change the way you think and behave.
It’s a practical, gentle guide which puts improved mental health at the forefront.
The weight loss, Izadi says, follows naturally.
‘This is the book I wish I had 20 years ago,’ says Izadi (above), who trained as a psychologist and lost eight stone by eliminating foods she couldn’t eat in moderation
The US physician has produced a comprehensive guide to what works and, crucially, what does not
How Not To Diet, by Michael Greger MD (Bluebird, £16.99)
‘I hate diet books,’ begins Greger – and the book gets more refreshing.
The US physician has produced this comprehensive, 600-page evidence-based guide to what works and, crucially, what does not.
On average, plant-based diets are best for long-term weight loss and a long, healthy life, he concludes.
Other evidence-based ‘tweaks’ that accelerate weight loss include eating early in the day, vinegar and eating greens.
Reassuringly, every penny earned from sales of the book goes to charity.
Diet advice doesn’t get much simpler than in this book
The Fitness Chef: Eat What You Like & Lose Weight For Life, by Graeme Tomlinson (Ebury Press, £16.99)
Diet advice doesn’t get much simpler than in this book.
Using idiot-proof graphs and line drawings, the nutrition coach and personal trainer spells out everything you need to know about achieving long-term weight loss.
No faddy diets or quick-fixes here, just evidence-based, scientific guidance on cutting calories without even realising it.
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