The Sunday Times had just published an expose of the Clean Eating movement and it makes shocking reading. They put it like this: Clean eating can seriously damage your health.
The clean-eating favourites with their girly socio-media friendly names are guilty of spreading an obsessive desire for healthy eating called orthorexia. This recently labelled eating disorder has serious ramifications.
Removing whole food groups or advocating low protein or no animal protein diets doesn’t make nutritional sense according to nutritionist Miguel Toribio-Mateas. It also makes you prone to getting infections.
Another nutritionist Jo Travers says cutting out dairy means “you have to concentrate a lot harder on getting enough calcium to achieve and maintain good bone density“. She also notes that vegan diets can led to deficiencies in protein, iron, calcium, vitamin B12 and omega 3.
In Britain there are now half a million vegans, an increase of 350% in ten years. Two-thirds are female and half aged between 15 and 34.
Young women are particularly likely to be deficient in both iron and calcium. A British Nutrition Foundation study found that 1 in 10 teenagers risk nutritional deficiencies; half of teenage girls take insufficient iron and 20% insufficient calcium.
A third of Brits have eaten “free-from” food (meat-free, gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, sugar-free) in the last 6 months despite their being over twice as expensive as normal foods.
Not all clean-eating diets cut out carbs and fat but those that do are a “catastrophe for teenagers” according to Mark Berelowitz, clinical lead for child and adolescent mental health services at the Royal Free Hospital.
The last thing they need, he says, “is courgetti pasta and cauliflower rice. They will starve on that“.
He also sees a link between clean eating and anorexia. “A preoccupation with clean eating can be a symptom of significant issues with food.”
He says 80-90% of people he sees with anorexia are obsessed with clean eating.
In America experts at John Hopkins school of medicine say many Orthorexia cases fall within Arfid – avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder. Arfid sufferers share “an overvalued belief that they have to stick to a very rigid diet”.
They may claim to be focussed on health rather than weight loss but that’s what anorexics say as well. They all narrow their food choices, have ritualised eating habits and preparation rituals and prolong eating.
So whether or not it’s called a diet this clean-eating movement is making money and making young women, in particular, risk their health.
Remember diets only work for 10% of people – and the latest research suggest that you have to keep it up for at least a year for your body to adapt. As for crash dieting – avoid at all costs (see my post here on this topic).
So there you have it. For further details see last weekend’s Sunday Times Magazine.