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Dieting can be dangerous

Malnutrition can result from dietary regimens which happen to be very unbalanced nutritionally. Some of these were introduced by medical graduates, others are unscientific. The following are only a sample.

“Liquid protein” combined with fasting

In the United States of America in the late 1970s this diet led to at least 60 deaths from cardiac arrhythmias in people with no history of heart disease. The product “Prolinn”, an extract from
beef hides, lacked several essential amino acids. It was withdrawn, but prolonged fasting with or without protein supplements (even those of good biological value) carries the risk of sudden fatal arrhythmias and has been criticized authoritatively.

Zen macrobiotic diets

These diets consist of 10 levels. The highest level is 100% cereals and prescribes a very low fluid intake. These diets have led to scurvy and/or impaired renal function, anaemia, hypocalcaemia, and emaciation. In some cases these have been fatal. These diets have been condemned by the American Medical Association.

Dr Atkins’s diet revolution

This weight reducing diet in a popular paperback written in 1972 prescribed a minimal carbohydrate intake. Ketosis is inevitable; and the diet raises plasma lipid concentrations.
It was condemned by the American Medical Association but the book can still be found on bookstalls, having sold millions of copies. It has been revived recently. This time it should be thoroughly tested for efficacy and safety.

Strict vegan diets for infants

Plant foods contain no vitamins B-12 or D. The latter can be synthesised in the skin if a child is exposed to sunlight, but the most serious nutritional complication of strict vegetarian diets
is vitamin B-12 deficiency in infants. The milk of vegan mothers contains insufficient vitamin B-12 unless she takes a supplement. This vitamin is required for normal myelin formation, and infants’ nervous systems are especially susceptible to deficiency. They can show impaired mental development, involuntary movements, and even coma responsive to vitamin B-12, as well as megaloblastic anaemia.

The Beverley Hills diet

This weight reducing diet requires consumption of nothing but fruit (all in a certain order and only the designated fruits) for the first 10 days. Some bread, salad, and meat are added later.
The theory behind this diet is unscientific, and it has been criticised in detail in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The Beck Diet Solution: Train Your Brain to Think Like a Thin Person

Can thinking and eating like a thin person be learned, similar to learning to drive or use a computer? Beck (Cognitive Therapy for Challenging Problems) contends so, based on decades of work with patients who have lost pounds and maintained weight through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Beck’s six-week program adapts CBT, a therapeutic system developed by Beck’s father, Aaron, in the 1960s, to specific challenges faced by yo-yo dieters, including negative thinking, bargaining, emotional eating, bingeing, and eating out. Beck counsels readers day-by-day, introducing new elements (creating advantage response cards, choosing a diet, enlisting a diet coach, making a weight-loss graph) progressively and offering tools to help readers stay focused (writing exercises, to-do lists, ways to counter negative thoughts). There are no eating plans, calorie counts, recipes or exercises; according to Beck, any healthy diet will work if readers learn to think differently about eating and food. Beck’s book is like an extended therapy session with a diet coach. (Apr.)

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