Eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Picture: Pexels

Slimmers should avoid fad diets and quick fixes as they are usually ‘too good to be true’, England’s top doctor has warned.

Products promising rapid weight loss by reducing appetite and fatigue can also have damaging side effects from stomach problems to heart issues, said NHS medical director Professor Stephen Powis.

Losing weight is the most common resolution adopted to mark the New Year.

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With one in four young people saying their appearance is their top concern, Professor Powis warned that the easy availability of quick-fix products such as diet pills and ‘detox teas’ online and on the high street could play on body image anxieties.

He advised those wanting to shed Christmas gains to do so ‘gradually and safely’.

He said: ‘It’s always a good time to try to get in shape and New Year’s resolutions are a great time to make a change. But the reality is there’s a slim chance of success with diet pills and detox teas – and people could end up doing more harm than good.’

His intervention follows calls earlier this year for social media firms to crack down on celebrities posting misleading ‘get fit quick’ adverts, prompting Instagram and Facebook to restrict endorsements of risky products.

Professor Powis recommended that slimmers use a 12-week weight-loss plan put together by the NHS and the British Dietetic Association, which helps people lose 1-2lb a week.

He also suggested drinking less, doing more exercise and trying to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

He said: ‘Making New Year goals and shifting a few excess pounds after Christmas can be a good idea but is much easier to maintain when done gradually and safely.’ He was backed by public health nutritionist Dr Emma Derbyshire, who said: ‘The best diets are those that are healthy, balanced and varied and can be maintained for the long term.

‘Quick fixes are not the answer to long-term health conditions and when restrictive can often be more harmful than helpful.’

But Dr Zoe Harcombe, an independent obesity researcher, claimed the NHS-backed dieting plan ‘is not evidence based’, with an emphasis on cutting fat and focusing on carbohydrates – a controversial subject.

She said: ‘My advice to anyone trying to lose weight and keep it off would be just three rules: eat real food, choose food for the nutrients it provides and eat a maximum of three times a day.’

Daily Mail