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Scientists junk celeb diets

Singer Cheryl Cole

Singer Cheryl Cole

Published Jan 1, 2011


From Cheryl Cole’s belief in the “blood group diet” to Naomi Campbell’s maple syrup, lemon and pepper “detox” regime, celebrities rarely shy away from inflicting quack remedies on an unsuspecting public.

Now scientists are hitting back.

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In a report, the charity Sense About Science has named and shamed the sports stars, singers, actors and models guilty of promoting pseudo scientific nonsense in 2010.

The big names range from David Beckham and Olivia Newton-John, to Robert de Niro and Kate Middleton.

One of the most popular fads of the year was the Master Cleanse detox diet, used by supermodel Naomi Campbell, and actress Demi Moore and her actor husband Ashton Kutcher. Followers eat nothing but maple syrup, lemon and pepper for up to two weeks.

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In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Campbell said: “It’s good just to clean out your body once in a while.”

But today’s report said detox was nothing more than a “marketing myth” - and that our bodies don’t need pricey potions or “boosts”. Dietician Anna Raymond said: “Essentially, it’s not cleaning your body, it’s starving it. A severe diet might actually lead to the creation of potentially harmful chemicals called ketones as a result of changes in your metabolism.”

Girls Aloud singer Sarah Harding revealed how she crumbles charcoal over her food. “It doesn’t taste of anything and apparently absorbs all the bad, damaging stuff in the body,” she told Now magazine.

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Chemist Dr John Elmsley said charcoal could help with bad wind, but was “unnecessary” in our diet.

“The body is already quite capable of removing any ‘bad, damaging stuff’ it encounters in ordinary consumption,” he said.

Another celebrity fad under the microscope is the “blood group diet”, favoured by X Factor judge Cheryl Cole and evergreen pop star Sir Cliff Richard.

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Supporters of the diet claim that people with different blood groups break down food in different ways and should eat different foods. In an interview with Hello!, Cole said: “It has made such a difference, not just to my shape but to how I feel and my energy levels.”

But dietician Sian Porter told Sense About Science that blood groups cannot affect digestion or the way food is broken down.

“This theory is really just another spin on reducing overall calorie intake,” she said. “It is surprising that Cheryl feels her energy levels have improved because cutting out food groups can lead to flagging energy levels.”

One of the most popular celebrity fads is Power Balance, a silicone bracelet embedded with a hologram which promises to improve strength, energy and flexibility.

Celebrities sporting the bracelets include David Beckham, Robert de Niro and Kate Middleton.

Formula 1 driver Rubens Barrichello endorsed the bracelet, claiming: “It”s is amazing how I feel better, stronger and more flexible when I exercise.”

But Professor Grey Whyte, a sports scientist at Liverpool John Moores University, said: “Any perceived enhancement to his performance from wearing the Power Balance bracelet is likely to be a placebo effect, as he expects to feel a change.”

Other celebrities making unscientific claims include Coronation Street actress Kate Ford, who insists a magnet on her wrist helped her to lose weight, and Absolutely Fabulous actress Julia Sawalha who said she doesn’t take malaria tablets when going abroad but chooses a homeopathic alternative. Lindsay Hogg, assistant director of Sense About Science, a charity which draws on the expertise of up to 2,000 scientists to respond to inaccuracies about science and technology, said: “When people in the public eye give opinions about causes of disease, cures, diets, or products we should buy or avoid, that’s it. Their opinion goes worldwide in seconds. It gets public attention and appears in every related Google search for months. So if it’s scientifically wrong, we’re stuck with the fall-out from that.

“We have thousands of scientists who are willing to look at claims about medicine and science. We’d like to see more celebrities checking out the science before they open their mouths and send the wrong thing viral.”-



“I don’’t get inoculations or take anti-malaria tablets when I go abroad, I take the homeopathic alternative.”

The facts: “There is no active ingredient in homeopathic treatments that would protect her against the disease.”

Olivia Newton-John

Said she takes “digestive enzymes with every meal and a tonic containing South American plant extracts that helps boost the immune system”.

The facts: “Your immune system cannot be ‘boosted’. As long as you are fit and well, the immune system is more than capable of fighting disease.”

Cheryl Cole

The blood group diet “has made such a difference, not just to my shape but to how I feel and my energy levels”.

The facts: “Your blood group cannot affect digestion or the way food is broken down.”

Kate Ford

The Coronation Street actress said: “A magnet worn on my wrist’s acupuncture point helped me drop two stone in a few months.”

The facts: “Other than a placebo effect, there is no evidence of any physical mechanism that suggests magnets worn at wrist points have beneficial powers.” - Daily Mail

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