The Worst Diets – Official Top 5 from the British Dietetic Association

If December is the time for feasting, then the New Year is surely the time of the Diet.

Part of that fresh start is often the resolution to lose weight.

So when it comes to shedding those excess or Christmas kilos, just how effective are the myriad of diets on offer?

The British Dietetic Association (BDA) regularly receives enquiries about the efficacy of new and existing diets.

Each year, the BDA announces its list of the worst of these diets. Some are familiar and others appear ridiculous. They have made the list however due to the high percentage of people genuinely enquiring after them.

So here they are…..the Official 5 Worst Diets according to the BDA. 

The Baby Food Diet

This diet advocates eating one adult meal per day with up to 14 jars of pureed food as additional meals and snacks. The “logic” behind the diet is that portions are controlled and calories restricted.

Thumbs Down: An unfortunate side effect of most processed foods is the lack of nutrients left in the jar. While baby foods are predominantly fruit and vegetables, they are so pureed that they lose most of their fibre and texture.

And what is wrong with the act of chewing?  Opting for laziness can actually prevent the sensation of feeling full and therefore can dull our own in-built satiety gauge.

The Raw Food Diet

A favourite amongst vegans and vegetarians, this diet involves eating raw and uncooked food as well as non-pasteurised and non-homogenised dairy products. 

Thumbs Down: The BDA is no fan of this diet due to its potential to become deficient in the nutrients Calcium, Vitamin D, Iron, Zinc and Protein. It also excludes most fibre rich foods such as rice, pasta, beans, pulses, potatoes and bread as these require cooking to make them edible. Some foods also require cooking to release their nutritional benefits (such as carrots and tomatoes)

Those who eat raw meat in this diet can also risk food poisoning and gastroenteritis.

The Blood Group Diet

This diet is a favourite amongst celebrities and even some health professionals. The claim that different nutrients are broken down in the body based on a person’s blood type is, according to the BDA “pseudo-science”.

To summarise, the basic rules are:

  • Blood Group A – No dairy products allowed and a vegetarian-based diet
  • Blood Group B – Can tolerate a varied intake of food and is also the only blood group that can manage dairy products.
  • Blood Group AB – Can combine the principles of both diets A and B (so is that a yes or no to dairy?)
  • Blood Group O – Eat a high meat diet with no dairy, wheat or grains

Thumbs Down: The BDA’s main gripe about this diet is its blanket ban on specific food groups. This can promote significant nutrient deficiencies. While weight loss occurs while eating the ABO way, it is argued that this diet is not sustainable in the long term.

The Dukan Diet

Made famous by The Duchess of Cambridge in the lead up to her wedding day, this four-phase diet begins with 5-10 days of eating only lean meat, fish, eggs and low-fat dairy products. One tablespoon and a half of oatbran is also taken to prevent constipation.

The second phase (or “cruise” in Dukan-speak) allows some vegetables every second day and a further half a teaspoon of oatbran. This can go on for months until the dieter has reached their “true weight”.

The third phase (“consolidation”) is when those who cruised successfully can eat some bread and fruit.

Once you’ve hit the fourth phase (“stabilisation”) the gloves are off and you can eat whatever type of food you like…….except for on Thursdays.

Thumbs Down: This diet was deemed the worst by the BDA. The main complaint is directed at its confusing and rigid rules. There is no solid science behind the diet and it is merely a re-vamped restriction of foods, calories and portion control.

Furthermore, the suggested foods are very French in flavour and include protein sources such as rabbit and offal (highly unlikely to be selected as food options). Dr Dukan even warns that this diet will result in a lack of energy, constipation and bad breath…….!

The Alcorexia / Drunkorexia Diet

It may sound laughable but this diet is about eating very few calories during the day / week so that you can binge drink alcohol. You are essentially “banking” your calories to use on alcohol.

Before you smirk and think this sounds like your kind of diet, consider the maths.

If you eat a low calorie diet, you could essentially bank 1,500 calories a day (or 10,500 calories a week). This equates to:

  • 131 glasses (units) of red wine or 26 bottles (based on a glass of red being around 80 kcals)
  • 201 shots (units) of spirits (based on a single shot of spirit being around 52 kcals)
  • 45 pints of beer – 90 units (based on a single pint being around 230 kcals)
  • 52 alcopops (units) (based on a single alcopop being around 200 kcals)

Bear in mind that the “safe” weekly alcohol unit intake is 28 units for men and 21 units for women.

Thumbs Down: An absolutely ludicrous diet! What is troubling is that it cannot be dismissed as a joke due to the significant number of enquiries received by the BDA about it. It is truly worrying that this is even consciously considered a diet option.

Alcohol has little nutrition other than sugar and calories so you run the risk of developing diabetes and other chronic health complaints. There are also widespread and serious nutritional deficiencies when you follow a very low calorie diet.

You will also have the pleasure of feeling weak, tired, irritable, nauseous and even experience alcohol poisoining. 

Room for one more dubious diet……..

The Lemon Detox Diet

OK it didn’t make the BDA list however it certainly warrants a special mention as part of the worst diets.

Heralded by a number of “celebrities”, this extreme cleanse involves drinking only the combination of lemon juice, bottled water, maple syrup and cayenne pepper for 7 days.

Widely marketed as the solution to weight and digestive problems, this diet is at best bizarre and at worst dangerous.

Thumbs Down: Essentially a starvation diet, the Lemon Detox Diet will result in weight loss but it comes at a price.

You are more likely to be losing muscle mass instead of fat as the body will go into survival mode as a result of being starved. Once you have completed these 7 days, you are likely to re-gain the weight quickly. Adding insult to injury, this weight gain will be in additional fat.

It is a temporary result.

And good luck trying to function normally. You are likely to experience moodiness, hunger, dizziness, lethargy, headaches and potentially muscle pain.


Emed Comment

We are bombarded by diets promising the elusive ideal weight loss. It can be difficult to separate the emotional from the rational when analysing diets.

Sian Porter a consultant dietician and spokesperson for the BDA said the Top 5 diets offered a “short-term fix to a long term problem”.

She says “It may be obvious, but if you want to lose weight you need to eat a nutritionally balanced and varied diet with appropriately sized portions and burn off more calories than you consume”.

In short, better food choices, eat less and move more! You really do know what to do. It is time to just do it!

Some diet plans are of benefit as they provide nutrition, energy, variety and a gradual and sustainable loss of excess weight.

These include: 

Mediterranean Diet

Research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease.

Furthermore, a recent analysis of more than 1.5 million healthy adults demonstrated that following a Mediterranean diet was associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular mortality, a reduced incidence of cancer and cancer mortality, and a reduced incidence of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.

In short, this diet advocates plenty of fruits, vegetables, legumes, fish, water and olive oil. Meat is kept to a minimum and a small glass of red wine daily is encouraged.

It is not a difficult eating plan to follow, it just requires a ready supply of nutritious foods.

For more information on the Mediterranean way of eating, click here.


Banish the Sugar Binge

There is little doubt that sugar addiction plagues most of us. 

Many theories have existed over the years as to why we are becoming larger in size. In the interesting book “Sweet Poison” by David Gillespie, there is significant evidence pointing towards Fructose as the culprit for weight gain.

We know of fructose as the sugar found naturally in fruits. So if it is natural it must be OK right? Not so.

Fructose is now commonly used as a sweetener in most commercially produced foods and drinks (and also in some protein powders and nutritional supplements).

Fructose in the context of fruit is fine to eat – Compare how easy it is to drink an apple juice that required 5 apples to make it and then try to eat 5 apples in succession.  The additional fibre acts as a “switch-off” valve to prevent the over-consumption of fructose.

The issue with excess fructose is that it can be converted very easily into fat. It also has the worrying ability to bypass control mechanisms in the body that prompt us to stop eating it.

Essentially, eating fructose is like eating fat that your body cannot detect as being fat. Fructose also has the addictive quality of encouraging us to continually seek it out.

So, to counteract this worrying fact, avoid commercially prepared foods as much as possible. If something tastes sweet, it will usually contain fructose.

If you find it hard to lose your sweet tooth, the mineral Chromium and herbs Gymnema and Cinnamon can help stabilise blood sugar levels, prevent insulin resistance and prevent sugar cravings. Great sugar craving busters include Eagle Gluco SupportMH Enhance GlucoBalance and Bioceuticals GlucoFactors.

Aim instead for each meal and snack to include small amounts of protein and fibrous carbohydrates (vegetables and fruit). For more information on how to implement this way of eating, read our article on Health Promoting Nutrition.


Whole Food vs Laboratory Food

Yes we are busy, stressed, and distracted. And yes we do not always allow time or priority to prepare healthy meals with the variety of foods we require.

So it is tempting and also a little reassuring to turn to the protein bars and shakes and other “diet” foods as a bit of nutritional insurance.

But what exactly are these food ingredients? And more importantly what are their potential effects on our bodies? Will this be a possible health concern in the future? As the noted nutritionist Cyndi O’Meara has stated “Avoid eating foods whose ingredients your Grandmother would not recognise!”

We do not have to be MasterChefs in the kitchen to eat well. We just require planning of our meals and shopping lists to ensure that the food we eat came from nature rather than a laboratory.


Final Word

That old cliche “one size doesn’t fit all” is relevant to diet plans. Food not only sustains us nutritionally but also evokes emotion and enjoyment. 

Food does not have to be endured to sustain your healthy weight, there are plenty of options that allow you to enjoy your meals. So make your resolutions to stop following fad diets – that is a resolution that can be easy to keep! 

To discuss healthy eating plans and how to maintain your weight loss, talk to one of the Emed Practitioners.