The British Dietetic Association (BDA) has revealed its annual list of top celebrity diets to avoid in the New Year

For the previous three years, the Dukan Diet has come out as number one, but this year, making a brand new entry, the Breatharian Diet has taken the top slot, followed by the Biotyping Diet at number two, the Gluten Free Diet at number three, the Alcorexia Diet at number four and completing the list this year is the previous years’ number one (2010, 2011 and 2012), the Dukan Diet.

The BDA, founded in 1936, is the professional association for dietitians in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is the nation’s largest organisation of food and nutrition professionals with over 7,000 members

Christmas is almost upon us and with it seemingly comes a whole month devoted to eating and drinking.  That is, of course, until the clock strikes midnight on December 31st and a New Year is heralded in.  With the New Year comes those New Year resolutions for ‘New Year, New You’ and for many, losing weight and getting that body you have always promised yourself sits high on the agenda.

However, with so many diet books, weight loss ‘experts’ and celebrity-endorsed fitness DVDs on the market, who’s cashing in on your dreams?

The BDA receives literally hundreds of calls from the media every year on this subject and they come across a huge range of weird and wacky diets and diet claims.

Here are some of the worst celebrity-linked diets the BDA has identified and spoken out against in 2013:

1. Breatharian Diet (new entry)

Celebrity Link:  Actress Michelle Pfeiffer has reportedly revealed she believes she was involved in a cult that followed the Breatharian Diet. (Similar to Madonna’s alleged Air Diet, when you pretend to eat the food on the plate in front of you and fill up by gulping air.)

What’s it all about?  Individuals who follow the Breatharian Diet can believe that they do not need to eat food or drink any liquids because they can achieve sustenance from air and/or sunlight alone.

BDA Verdict:  You seriously cannot live on fresh air alone!  We cannot stress enough that people should NOT even consider following this diet.  It doesn’t matter what anybody tries to tell us, or point to any kind of evidence, the basic fact is we all need food and liquid in our diet to live.  There is nothing good we could ever say about the Breatharian Diet.  You can be sure of weight loss if anyone attempted to ‘exist’ on this diet but this would also be accompanied by, dehydration, malnutrition and risk of death!

2. Biotyping (new entry)

Celebrity Link:  In 2013, singer Boy George reportedly cited this as attributing to his weight loss.

What’s it all about?  There are various approaches with this. The BioSignature system relates to six different hormone types and fat accumulation in different body sites and aims for ‘site’-specific body fat reduction, measured by skinfold calipers, through hormone balance. By choosing only certain foods, thus cutting out others, adding a training programme and taking supplements the promise is it will ‘spot reduce’ fat.

BDA Verdict: Bio-nonsense! This diet relies too heavily on supplements and pseudo-science with only a selective grain of robust science (that hormones are involved in fat metabolism) and does not even mention visceral fat (internal fatty tissue). Many people will lose weight on this type of approach because it restricts certain foods.  It also restricts calorie intake and it involves physical activity.

3. Gluten-Free Diet (new entry)

Celebrity Link:  Gwyneth Paltrow allegedly advocates this.

What’s it all about?  Cutting out gluten, the protein found in wheat, barley rye and oats and foods containing it is a healthier option for all and can lead to weight loss.

BDA Verdict:  Whilst important for those with coeliac disease or gluten sensitivity, there is no credible published research showing that a gluten-free diet per se leads to weight loss in those without.  Many foods that contain gluten, like breaded products, pastries, cakes and biscuits, are high in calories, so by avoiding them, many lose weight. Many believe, wrongly, they can eat as much as they like of gluten-free substitutes like biscuits, sausages and beer. Gluten-free does not mean calorie free.

4. Alcorexia / Drunkorexia Diet (Non-mover – last year number 4)

Celebrity Link:  It is widely thought that many top models and others follow this ‘diet’.

What’s it all about?  It’s when people eat very few calories during the day/week and ‘bank’ these ‘saved’ calories (kcals) in order to binge-drink alcohol over the weekend, usually.  For example, if you favour a VLC diet (very low calorie) in order to follow this ‘diet’, you could be ‘banking’ around 1,500 kcals a day, which then gives you 10,500 kcals to drink during the week (based on the recommended female diet of 2,000 kcals per day).  This amounts to:

45 pints of lager (based on a single pint being around 230 kcals).  With a pint of lager being 2 units, this gives you a weekly alcohol intake of 90 units. 201 shots of spirits (based on a single shot being around 52 kcals).  With a single shot of spirit being 1 unit, this gives you a weekly alcohol intake of 201 units. 52 alcopops (based on a single alcopop being around 200 kcals).  With a single alcopop being 1 unit, this gives you a weekly alcohol intake of 52 units. 131 glasses of red wine, or 26 bottles (based on a glass of red being around 80 kcals).  With a single glass being 1 unit, this gives you a weekly alcohol intake of 131 units).

Context:  The safe weekly alcohol unit intake is 28 units for men and 21 units for women.

BDA Verdict:  Do not fall off the wagon!  Following a VLC diet alone is madness in itself, as you will most certainly not be getting the calories, vitamins and nutrients your body needs to survive and function.  Not only that, but by the end of the week when you are also tired and weak, you then subject your body to an onslaught of alcohol intake after intake after intake.  Alcohol has little nutrition other than calories.  This is a worrying ‘diet’ that could end up causing immense damage to the body.

5. Dukan Diet (number 1 in 2010, 2011 and 2012)

Celebrity Link:  The Duchess of Cambridge’s mum, Carole Middleton, and Jennifer Lopez have reportedly followed this diet.

What’s it all about?  This is a complicated high protein, no/low carb, four-phase diet that promotes rapid weight loss. 

BDA Verdict:  Dukan do so much better!  The rigid Dukan Diet works by restricting food, so restricting calories.  Initial weight loss will be fluid.  Even the creator of the diet, Pierre Dukan, who, in 2013 was banned from practising as a GP in France, has warned of associated issues with the diet such as lack of energy, constipation (due to lack of fibre/cutting out food groups), the need for a vitamin and mineral supplement (due to lack of variety/cutting out food groups) and bad breath. 

Speaking about these and other fad diets, Sian Porter, consultant dietitian and Spokesperson for the BDA, said:

“We hear it all when it comes to the latest way to shed those pounds from the good to the bad, to the down-right dangerous!  When people need medical advice, they go to their GP and when people have a toothache, they go to their dentist, but some people will believe almost anything and anyone when it comes to nutrition, food and diet.

“The bottom line is, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.  Also, if you have to pay out for a DVD or special book or product that will unlock the secrets of losing weight, this can also be a good indicator that the only pounds you will be losing will be out of your wallet.  The simple fact is, there is no ‘wonder diet’ just as there are no ‘super foods’.  What is super, is the way many marketing machines coin certain phrases to make you think there is some magic wand approach to losing weight.

“Maybe it’s not as exciting but the truth is, if you do want to lose some weight do it by eating a healthy balanced diet, watch your portion sizes and be physically active.  Think of it as a marathon approach to achieving your goals, as opposed to a sprint approach.  Aim to make permanent changes to your diet and lifestyle that are sustainable in the long term, not forgotten by the end of January.”

Save your money and access a whole raft of FREE BDA Food Fact Sheets at

including one specifically about weight loss at

Please note the BDA Food Fact Sheets hold The Information Standard certification, are all evidence-based and are peer reviewed. 

Image: iStockphoto

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