Are diets from non experts harmful?

There are lots of diet fads and lifestyle advice with how to eat a big part of them – paleo, alkali, clean eating, raw food, ditch the carbs, ditch the dairy, ditch the processed, eat real……and so the list goes on.  A lot of them are promoted by people from a non-scientific background who often look amazing or tell a very emotive story.  They are followed by many people craving a lifestyle, a six pack or a sense of amazing wellness as portrayed by said non-expert.

But is there really any harm in them?  Aren’t they just followed by the worried well with spare cash to buy the generally more expensive food that often goes along with these diets? Surely after a while people just give up on them with no real harm done?  Or is there a more negative effect for some people?  I am upset by some of these diets but is it just because I am a nutritionist with my own view being challenged?  Can they really do any harm?

I recently read a blog post on The Nourishment Network by Natasha Lipman who described her story of following these regimes and the negative effect they had on her.  In her case, she was plagued with some health issues that medicine was struggling to help her with, her desire to take control and help herself to health led her on an interesting and expensive (and at times very unpleasant journey).

It struck a cord with me not only as a nutritionist but also as someone with a long term health condition.  I can search the internet for my condition – Interstitial Cystitis – and there are crazy, tough diets that can apparently cure me.  If I was to follow said diet I would likely have all joy and love of food taken away, eating would become difficult and anti-social, could have a long term negative effect on my general health due to the restrictive nature of the diet and, when it didn’t cure me, leave me feeling a failure because I didn’t do it right or else I would be cured!!  And whilst a few people maybe feeling better after going on the diet which is great for them, they would be the exception rather than the rule.  But oh the promise of having my pain disappear and all my inconvenient symptoms (of which there are many) to fade away, I am tempted a bit.

Watch this video of Natasha Lipman talking for the British Dietetic Association and see how for some people, wellness blogs sharing restrictive diets can be very harmful both physically and mentally.

So please be responsible if you are blogging about foods and diets.  Make sure that what you say can do no harm.  Get advice on making sure that your advice or suggestions can do no harm.  Think carefully about how your information could have a negative effect on someone.  There are some fantastic Dietitians, Registered Nutritionists, scientists who are providing evidence based information in accessible language, getting out there on social media and writing great blogs. People who would team up with you to present your story in a way that keeps it real, safe and helpful.



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