Gloria Hunniford and Chris Bavin investigate the controversial diets that recommend cutting out entire food groups from what you eat.
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Millions of us will have made drastic changes to what we eat
because we have been told it will do us some good.
But some of what is recommended can be very controversial.
So today we will be investigating the quick fix fads that could be
doing us more harm than good.
Every day we are bombarded with conflicting information about our
One minute we are told something is good for us,
the next it's not and we're left feeling guilty about what we're eating.
We've been wading through the confusion to separate the scare stories from
the truth so you can choose your food with confidence.
Hello and welcome to Food: Truth Or Scare,
where we go behind some of these big,
bold headlines to tell you whether what you can eat really can transform
your health or even, as in the case of one of today's films,
just keep you from reaching for another biscuit.
But what the papers don't always tell us is that lurking behind some of
those reports is advice that could have a long-term impact on your health
and if some of the critics are to be believed, could even be dangerous.
So if you want to know the truth about the foods and diets that the papers
just can't seem to make their minds up about,
then you are absolutely in the right place because we have everything you
need to know.
Coming up... Will completely cutting out certain foods from your diet
do you any good or could it be a food fad too far?
I just read in a clean eating book recently that a lettuce leaf makes a
great substitute for bread.
And the headlines that question everything we thought we knew about fat.
Could it really be true that all we've been told about eating too much is wrong?
The report is actually quite misleading and actually that could
have quite damaging and detrimental effects on public health.
Chris, this first film was something that in a way you and I come from
different sides, different points of view really.
We certainly do. Did you know that up to two thirds of people have
considered cutting out entire food groups from their diet because they
think it will be good for them? That is more often than not dairy and
gluten, which my wife, who is a coeliac, cannot have at all.
But you have had to do something similar, haven't you?
I did. I actually quite by accident found out that I was classified as
prediabetic and so I was advised by this top doctor that I should really
cut out sugar, but he said you have got to cut out carbs as well.
So by cutting out carbs as well as sugar it meant that I avoided being
a type 2 diabetic and I lost 2st in weight.
Well, that's absolutely fine.
It's one thing cutting something out on clear medical advice and it's
quite another to do it for lifestyle reasons, and however popular cutting
out entire food groups seems to be in headlines like this one,
some reports say
it might not actually be that good for us after all.
So I set out whether to see whether exclusion diets are a short cut to good
health or a short-lived fad that could lead to long-term problems.
For years the papers have loved to tell us how to eat better,
but it seems the days of just cutting down on the bad things are long gone.
Now we are being told to cut some foods out of our diets altogether.
Whether it's dropping gluten, wheat, dairy, sugar or carbs,
we are told that so-called exclusion diets can apparently do everything
from help you to lose weight,
boost your energy, and even protect against conditions like diabetes.
But the same papers that appear to love them aren't shy about giving them
a bashing too.
And I have to say it's going to take quite a lot to convince me that these
diets are a good idea because I've got personal experience of what it's
like for someone who has no choice but to avoid gluten.
Now, my wife is a coeliac,
so I know how hard it is when you are trying to cut out certain food
groups. Why anyone would want to do it voluntarily is beyond me.
But Rebecca Hudson from Woking thinks she has got plenty of reasons to
exclude gluten from her diet too.
I can get quite bloated sometimes and I get quite tired and lethargic and
I can get like a few outbreaks of spots and things.
I've decided to give up gluten because I think it would be interesting to
see if some of my symptoms go.
From what she's read Rebecca thinks going gluten free really could help,
so she is going to try it for a month.
And for a bit of moral support
she is calling on her boyfriend and school sports coach, John, who will
be trying out an exclusion diet too.
He will be giving up dairy for a month because he wants to cut down his
body fat and improve how he feels.
Recently just reading newspapers I read that some people do it to clean
out their body and say, "Right, let's try something else."
That's what I believe, but it could be completely wrong.
Before they have to give up any of the foods they love
the couple have invited Rebecca's twin sister Natasha around for a last supper.
So, who do you think is going to find it harder out of the two of you?
-Yeah, I think John.
Rebecca and John aren't alone in trying something like this.
In fact, it's been estimated that four in ten of us are now following
a specialist diet
and that includes those who have cut entire food groups to help lose
weight or even make them feel better.
But dietician Dimple Thakrar thinks it is a food fad that could actually
be dangerous for our health.
So, people are choosing to cut dairy or gluten.
-Why are you not recommending people do this?
OK, so for example gluten.
Gluten is contained in wheat and bread.
If we remove those foods from our diet and not replacing them,
we are actually removing a really good source of starch carbohydrates.
You're reducing your energy intake.
A good source of B vitamins, of iron, of calcium.
Dairy, again, a good source of protein, a good source of calcium.
So, again, removing those you could become deficient in them.
'The potential side effects could be so serious that the British Dietetic
'Association says that anyone wanting to do an exclusion diet should seek
'professional advice first.'
Unless you've been tested and diagnosed by a medical professional and then
supported with a dietician, we wouldn't recommend exclusion diets.
However, if you choose to do that for lifestyle reasons,
it is really important that you seek the support of a dietician.
While Dimple takes a dim view of exclusion diets,
other experts are less critical.
Nutritionist Yvonne Bishop-Weston says some of her clients do say they
feel better after excluding certain foods,
so we asked her to help Rebecca and John through their month-long
experiment. She is paying the couple and Natasha a visit for a pre-diet checkup.
So, how has dinner been going?
To see whether the diets do have the positive effects that Rebecca and
John are hoping, Yvonne is getting them to rate out of ten how
they feel now, and she will do the same at the end of the experiment.
First, marks for how tired they feel, with one being not at all and ten
Are you able to give that a number?
-Thank you. What about you?
When it gets to mid morning I'm like, "I'm really tired".
And if I'm here I really want a nap and sometimes I do.
So Rebecca gives her tiredness levels as seven,
but both she and John say their biggest concern is with their digestion.
Rebecca, what would you say are your key digestive symptoms?
Sometimes I can just get quite bloated.
Sometimes I go to bed and I'll be like, "I feel really full".
What about you, John? There were a few things that you marked down
on your digestive system. Now, this is not a competition.
-You don't have to beat her numbers.
It is a competition.
Rebecca gives herself a six for bloatedness and John gives himself a seven.
He also rates his digestive troubles a three,
but Rebecca has other ideas.
Should we ask? Should we put gas, as reported by Rebecca?
It's bad, it's like a seven.
John's greatest hope for the diet is that he will lose some body fat.
So Yvonne takes a whole range of other measurements...
So, I've got some food diaries here for you.
..before leaving them,
ready to start their month-long diets the next morning.
It will be really interesting to come back to these scores,
-back to these symptoms, in a month's time, and see if we've found any changes.
Yvonne will keep an eye on the couple's diets over the next
month and is optimistic they could both feel healthier.
I am expecting if gluten is an issue for Rebecca to see a change in her
waist. Not her level of body fat, but her level of bloating.
I think with John it's going to be harder to work out whether it's made
a difference or not. He is interested in looking at a change in body fat
percentage, but his body fat percentage is already really good.
Yvonne will be back in four weeks' time to see how they got on.
But according to some headlines Rebecca and John could end up less healthy,
depending on the foods they choose to replace all that gluten and dairy
they would otherwise be eating.
For someone with coeliac disease, like my wife,
there is no option but to go gluten free.
But while only one in every 100 people are coeliac,
one in five have bought or eaten gluten-free products and they have done it
mainly because they believe that gluten may be bad for them,
'and though that means more choice,
'dietician Dimple Thakrar says not everything available will be as healthy
'as it might appear.'
-So, my wife's a coeliac, so she can't eat gluten.
I've noticed that the "free from" range of products available has grown
-How do you think they stack up?
If we look at the fat content,
there's probably two to three times more fat in the gluten-free bread
than there is in a normal slice of bread.
-So people... Some people,
-could be cutting out gluten...
-And thinking they are doing the right thing...
Whereas actually they could be increasing their fat.
And therefore increasing their risk of heart disease and weight gain.
Back in Woking,
John and Rebecca are getting to grips with the reality of their exclusion diet.
John has cut dairy and Rebecca has cut gluten.
But as their video diaries show, things aren't as easy as they'd hoped.
So I'm feeling pretty annoyed today
and it's all because of coffee shops.
They don't really have many options
at all available to anyone that is
Pastries, butter in the sandwiches,
just dairy in everything.
I went to a cafe with some friends we all got
bacon rolls. My little
gluten-free roll was half the size and I had to pay more for it.
I did have to steal a few tomatoes off the cocktail sticks and a few
lettuce leaves. But that was that it.
I kind of felt a bit like a rabbit.
Well, later in the programme we'll see if things got any easier for John
and Rebecca and if, after a month,
their exclusion diets have made any difference whatsoever to how they feel.
Now, excluding whole food groups from your diet is one way that lots of
people are choosing to lose weight.
But if that's a bit extreme and you'd prefer just to cut down,
rather than cutting something out completely then you might go for one of
the more tried and tested ways to lose weight.
So, for example, Chris, if you decide to lose weight,
not that you need to, of course, how would you choose to do it?
Oh, I don't know. Low fat foods, I suppose.
-Low-fat foods help you lose weight, don't they?
You see, that's what we've always been told,
but I've been on the trail of the story that said exactly the opposite
and told us to forget everything we thought we knew about weight loss.
For decades fat, particularly saturated fat,
has been public health enemy number one,
as indeed so many of us are aware.
It's going to clog your arteries up sooner or later if you keep eating saturated fat.
Well, every time I've joined Weight Watchers I've been told to eat less
Saturated fats, you have to get them in there because it's part of your
diet, but too much I don't think would be right for you.
We've reported on the confusion around the role of saturated fat
in our diet before. But last spring,
it looked like decades of official advice had been overturned when a
raft of new headlines suddenly announced that,
far from being the enemy we'd long been told it was,
that fat could be a friend for anyone trying to slim down.
Unsurprisingly, such a unexpected and controversial message
made a very big splash in the papers.
Now, many, many newspapers reported roughly the same thing.
They had rather similar headlines,
and all of them saying that this particular study or report says that all of
the traditional views we have had of trying to lose weight in the past are wrong,
and what we should be doing instead of swapping high-fat foods for
low-fat foods, it should be the other way round.
We should be eating a lot of high-fat foods, even saturated fats.
Now, while it might sound extraordinary,
the report the headlines were based on came from some members of the
health charity the National Obesity Forum.
And it said the Government's advice to reduce the amount of saturated fat
we eat to help control our weight and avoid conditions like heart disease
It's such a big sort of wide subject, isn't it?
Trudi Deakin is one of the authors of the report.
She says when the nation turned to low-fat foods we replaced the fat with
carbohydrates and sugar and, as far as she is concerned,
far from helping us to lose weight that's contributed to the highest levels
of obesity ever.
So, Trudi, practically as far as I can remember back,
the message has always been no fat, low fat, light everything.
We live in a fat-phobic nation, don't we?
And the science came out in the 1950s and 1960s
and it was bad science,
unfortunately. And at that time there was not one clinical trial
that showed that reducing total fat
and reducing saturated fat in the diet
would improve health outcomes at all.
While Trudi might consider it bad science,
those studies were the basis for the Government's first official
guidelines for what we should eat, published in 1983.
But Trudi doesn't think they've had the intended effect on the nation's health.
When the dietary guidelines were published in 1983,
then the prevalence of diabetes was 1.4%, it's now 6%.
-Prevalence of obesity was 6% - 8%, it is now 25%.
-That's scary, isn't it?
-So two thirds of the population were overweight.
So people don't get up in the morning and say,
"I want to get fat," but they are following the guidelines and they're
having a low-fat, high carbohydrate diet and it's not working.
Eating fat doesn't make you fat.
'Instead, Trudi says it's a combination of carbohydrates and processed fats
'that lead to obesity.'
So, where do you stand on what's good fat and what's really bad fat?
The healthy fats are the natural fats.
So avoid the fake foods, avoid the junk foods, avoid the processed foods,
let's kind of base our meals on real foods.
Oily fish, butter, lard.
If you turn around and look at the ingredients of butter,
you will see buttermilk.
If you pick up a low-fat spread and look at the ingredients,
how long are they? I mean, they're really long,
full of processed and artificial ingredients.
'And while I can see that that makes sense,'
I worry that headlines declaring that fat is good go against everything we've
been told, not least because four years ago my husband, Stephen,
had a small heart attack,
and most experts would agree that saturated fat
is one of the causes of heart disease.
'But Trudi stands by her report.'
I don't mean this unkindly, but are you right?
I mean, the evidence is there.
Last year a systematic review was published on this very subject and what
they concluded is that reducing saturated fat in the diet does not reduce
cardiovascular disease or heart attacks and does not reduce strokes and
does not reduce diabetes diagnoses.
'I have to say, I find some parts of Trudi's argument quite convincing'
but I can't shake all that long-standing medical advice about
saturated fat and its link to heart disease.
So I can understand why, when the study hit the papers last year,
it was met with huge criticism,
not least from the Government body responsible for protecting the nation's health.
'Dr Alison Tedstone is chief nutritionist for Public Health England.'
Well, Alison, presumably you've had a look at this report.
-And what's your immediate reaction to it?
Well, it's an opinion piece.
It's setting out the opinion of individuals and they've chosen studies to
illustrate their opinion.
So it's not a complete assessment of the evidence.
Do you think it's irresponsible?
Yes, we do think it's irresponsible.
There is evidence to show if you increase your saturated fat intake
you increase your blood levels of cholesterol and that will increase your risk
of having a heart attack.
Do you subscribe to the fact that there are any good fats?
The advice is as it is for now and that is that all saturated fats
should be lower within the diet.
When you're choosing dairy products, for example,
choose lower fat dairy products, don't choose full fat,
go for the lower fat products.
And there are many who share Alison's concerns about the National Obesity Forum report,
pointing to what appears to be overwhelming evidence that
saturated fats in particular are very bad for us.
So, the report is actually quite misleading
and actually that could have
quite damaging and detrimental effects on public health.
So it's not something I would recommend.
Many years of research and also very recent research published in November 2016
has linked saturated fat with a higher risk of heart disease.
'And while Trudi might say the Government's decades of nutritional advice
'is one of the contributing factors for record levels of obesity and'
type 2 diabetes, Charlotte believes that is unfair because very few of us
actually follow that advice.
I think it's important for the public to be aware that actually only about
1% of the population actually adheres to our current dietary recommendations.
So if you look at the fact that around 60% of adults are overweight
or obese and only 1% of people are following the dietary guidelines,
it doesn't really make sense that they are causing overweight and obesity.
Well, with both sides arguing their evidence is the most convincing,
clearly this is a disagreement set to rage on and on.
And unless the rest of us study in detail what they are really saying
it's all too easy to latch onto just one part of the argument,
as perhaps was the case with how the papers reacted to this particular report.
The newspaper will take this document and it will go, "Eat fat,
"get thin," and that's what the public look at.
It has to start somewhere.
It's not easy, but what else can we do?
Ignore the evidence?
But as far as Alison is concerned, the evidence Trudi is pointing to simply
-doesn't stand up.
-It's quite difficult.
We could spend the whole of Public Health England's resources on talking
about articles that come up within the press, and we do what we can,
but we also have a job to do, to check the evidence is correct and so on
and so forth. I think the full dietary advice has changed.
It's very important that evidence is looked at in a rounded and consistent and
So the official advice that we should cut down on fats remains the same.
And in the meantime, perhaps the most worrying factor in all of this is how
easy it might be for people to take an oversimplified message from a bold headline
claiming that you can "eat fat to get thin".
Still to come, we'll find out if our volunteers Rebecca and John feel any
different after a month of cutting certain foods from their diet.
I was in a town the other day and I went to three cafes,
and no-one could feed me.
Now, Gloria, whatever the theory is about either healthy eating or diets,
there's one thing that for many of us stands in the way,
and that's our appetites, isn't it?
We've all had those days, haven't we,
no matter how much you eat you never quite feel full,
and when one or two biscuits quickly becomes the packet?
I've been there myself, I have to tell you.
And sometimes I'm filming all day and there is no food available,
and at times I get so hungry that I could eat the table or those papers or
anything at all just to get something.
If you could refrain from eating the table and papers till the
-end of the show...
-I'll do my best.
..that would be fantastic.
Well, Paralympian Danny Crates is another one who just can't say no when
it comes to certain foods,
so we sent Danny to see if he could find an off switch for his appetite.
'This is one of my favourite rooms in the house.
'I'm always cooking, snacking and nibbling on something as I cook.'
'All my life I've had what you might call a big appetite.
'As a kid, I used to steal whole packets of biscuits from the kitchen
'cupboards, and these days, when I finish my dinner,
'I'll hoover up anything left on the kids' plates.'
-Do you know what?
Because I only had a little bowl I might have to have a little bit more.
'I have a constant appetite, and it doesn't go unnoticed in my house.'
At night-time he sneaks in some cheese and crackers
and oranges, but we know - whenever we come down,
he leaves it all over the floor.
-Just a little bit extra.
'I want to know what controls my appetite and whether anything is going to
'stop me finishing off my kids' leftovers,
'because even when I'm full I just keep on going.'
For me, just like my boys, there's some foods I can't resist,
even when I've had a massive meal.
I know I don't need to eat any more but I can always find a little bit of room.
And apparently, I'm not the only one who's affected by this.
'Last autumn, this headline hit the papers, and it confirmed everything
'I've always suspected.
'Even when it feels like there's no room left in our stomachs,
'lots of us can always sneak in an extra treat.
'The man who was behind the study being reported is Dr Bernard Corfe,
'who says that our brains find it
'all too tempting to override our stomachs.'
I don't seem to ever be able to stop eating.
Is there any reason for that?
Appetite is only part of the equation.
There's all sorts of overrides that come from being presented with our
favourite foods, even the smell of food or the thought of food,
or being in a social setting and eating together.
If you're amongst people who are continuing to eat you will continue to
eat, too. So there's all sorts of
overrides that come from your environment.
'And those overrides can be anything from how tired we're
'feeling to how happy we are.
'It can also be about where we are or who we're with or simply just how much we
'love the taste of the food in front of us.
'Bernard says willpower can help overcome those temptations.
'But, as I know all too well, that isn't easy.'
Obviously, some people are much better at saying no than others.
Is there a quick fix for those that can't say no?
There are some people who are cutter-downers,
and there are some people who are cutter-outers.
And I know, for me, if I open a packet of biscuits the whole lot goes,
but I can stop myself opening the packet of biscuits in the first place.
And so, knowing yourself,
knowing whether you're better just to avoid getting started helps you to
sort of get a sense of what's going to work for you as an individual.
'But in my house, temptation is everywhere.'
So I guess hoovering up my children's leftovers is bad?
I've been there.
There is definitely calories in children's leftovers.
'So it seems that controlling my appetite's off switch is not going to be
'as simple as I first thought.
'But all is not lost,
'because according to dietician Linia Patel I'm far less likely to overeat
'after meals if I eat foods that
'will properly fill me up in the first place.'
We need to look at the type of foods you're eating.
The first thing that you need to do to help you fill up,
you need to put lots of fibre on your plate.
So, fibre would be things like vegetables and fruit or even beans.
So what you might do is when you cook your next Bolognese is actually chop up
lots of carrots and celery and mushrooms and peppers and also put
a can of beans in there, because that fills you up instantly.
Then you need to make sure you've
got enough protein, because that keeps you fuller for longer.
'So to test out whether Linia's right
'and feeling full with the right foods CAN help overcome temptation,
'I've recruited two self-confessed big eaters,
'Rick and Mark from Basingstoke, who, like me,
'can't resist tucking into more than they need.'
Crisps are a big vice for me.
I've got a real savoury tooth, so I really, really like crisps,
so once I start picking I usually can't stop.
Chocolate's my vice. So that's the unhealthy side of things.
'He's probably a bit more...he's more of a grazer with those type of things,'
whereas I tend to sort of binge-eat crisps.
So we sort of... complement each other like that.
'To see if they're reaching for snacks out of habit,
'because they can't resist temptation or because the rest of their diet
'isn't filling them up, Linia's going to analyse what they eat,
'and for the last week Rick and Mark have each been keeping a food diary.'
So, Linia, the food diaries are in, Richard and Mark's.
-We'll look at Richard's first. Is there anything glaringly
obvious to you?
Well, what's happening here is he loves his sweet stuff.
So very much a sweet tooth.
So a lot of the foods coming through are going to be high in sugar,
which is not going to help him feel full.
Actually, it's just going to make him feel even hungrier and wanting to eat more.
Mark doesn't eat as regularly, but he seems to eat large portions.
So obviously he's eating because he's hungry, but he's eating beyond that.
The other thing is that Mark drinks alcohol, and what alcohol does is it
actually gives you an additional hunger.
So you're much more likely to, you know, give in to
the second packet of chips or have dessert because, you know,
you don't care as much.
'Linia wants to help Rick and Mark stop eating when they don't need to,
'so she's come up with a menu she thinks should do just that
'by keeping them full all day.
'And it starts with their own individual protein-packed breakfast,
'which Linia says should really fill them up.'
This is breakfast this morning.
This is my poached eggs.
So, breakfast is two slices of wholemeal toast and some baked beans.
'Linia's confident these combinations of protein and fibre will have a
'longer-lasting satisfying effect and stop Rick and Mark's usual
I did enjoy something different for breakfast...
..and I do feel a bit fuller than I normally would.
So, I ate that quite slowly.
I am quite full, so I'm going to stop eating.
I'm going to save my apple for my mid-morning break and see how I get on.
'So far, so good.
'A healthy bit of fruit for a snack,
'and four hours later it's time for lunch.'
So, lunch today.
And this is for me and Rick.
'Lunch is a veg-packed salad with avocado,
'tomato and salad leaves mixed with
'some dressing and topped off with salmon.'
Lunch has arrived. It's something different to what I'd normally have.
'Gone are the sandwiches, crisps and sweets.
'This looks good to me.'
That was very nice and I am full.
'Both of them admit to snacking most afternoons,
'but Linia says their favourite crisps and chocolate aren't just unhealthy
'but could send their blood sugar soaring.
'And the crash likely to follow will make them even hungrier,
'so instead she's advised healthier snacks - carrot sticks and hummus -
'which shouldn't have the same effect.
'And it's done the trick for Rick.'
I'd normally reach for something sweet after lunch, but I didn't really
need them. I really did fancy
something sweet but I wasn't hungry for anything.
'However, later on Mark did confess to sneaking in a few cheeky crisps
'mid-afternoon. And for dinner, it's chicken, lentils and lots of veg,
'which is so filling there's no room for pudding.'
-I am a bit stuffed.
-I would normally have ice cream or some chocolate, but
I'm just full.
I'm done, I think, for tonight.
'Now, it was probably habit, not hunger,
'that drove Mark to reach for those crisps earlier on,
'but Rick was sufficiently satisfied
'by Linia's meals to avoid any extra temptation.'
Looking at what we've eaten today
I think has changed my perspective on what I should be eating during
the day to try and stop the snacking.
'And even with Mark's crisps,
'both of them have eaten less food than they normally would on a typical
'day and consumed fewer calories.
'And Linia says anyone can do the same by following three simple rules.'
Fill up on fibre, so make sure you're getting some vegetables and fruit
and beans and wholegrains onto your plate.
Have protein on your plate,
so include protein, like your meats and your dairy and your nuts,
in your main meals and also your snacks.
And then the third is include some fat in your diet, as well, because that
really helps your body feely fully satisfied.
'But, as Mark found, food alone can't always beat habit or temptation.
'Most of us are thought to eat an average of 300 calories a day more than
'we need. So, as Dr Bernard Corfe says,
'the key to switching your appetite off is about more than simply what you
'eat, and it's different for everyone.'
What people need to do is keep a diary of food,
keep a diary of physical exercise and understand, for them as an
individual, that calorie excess is starting to creep in.
And it's by understanding that and then starting to try to change that that you
can get control of your diet again.
It's about finding that balance?
Absolutely. It's about the whole of your lifestyle.
It's about identifying how you can expend more energy, perhaps, as well as
taking in more energy, and many people go running or cycling or whatever
so they can eat their favourite foods,
and I'm sure there's lots of examples of that.
'And I'm one of them.
'Though I've retired from professional sport, I'm still active.
'So perhaps I shouldn't be so worried about controlling appetite,
'as long as I'm burning it off...
'..which with any luck means I don't need to feel quite so guilty about
'mealtimes with the kids.'
That's all right, that one.
For a host of quick and easy ideas
to help you stay full for longer, go to:
..where you'll also find plenty of other recipes on some of the topics
we're covering in this series.
Earlier in the programme, we left Rebecca and John in the middle of their
exclusion diet, and I think it's fair to say neither of them were
finding it as easy as they would have hoped.
But cutting out entire food groups is part of a new healthy-eating
movement that's gained a lot of column inches lately,
clean eating. While fans say it's a no-diet diet,
critics are saying that it's not only unnecessary but could be dangerous.
So while Rebecca and John get used to their new regime,
I want to find out whether clean eating's all it's cracked up to be.
Two weeks into their month-long experiment with exclusion diets,
dairy-free John and gluten-free Rebecca are off on a night out.
Where have you decided to take me, John?
A lovely Italian restaurant near Woking.
The only problem is that I can't eat anything on the menu.
We could be moving restaurants.
Exclusion diets involve cutting whole food groups from your diet to improve
your health, and these two started theirs because Rebecca wants to know if
gluten is making her tired and causing digestive problems...
..while sports coach John wonders if going dairy-free will help his
digestion and lower his body fat.
Now they're at the halfway point,
they're checking in with nutritionist Yvonne Bishop-Weston.
-Hello! Tell me, what's been happening?
It's a bit of a challenge at lunchtime at school. All the hot dishes
with the meat in tend to have butter in or cream in,
so I'm struggling a bit on that side.
I've been finding it all right. It's very challenging when I'm out and about.
I was in a town the other day and I went to three cafes, and no-one
-could feed me.
-How's that affecting your health?
How are you feeling with these long gaps between meals?
Well, I'm actually feeling pretty great.
I think I'm sleeping a tiny bit better.
I'm not sure if it's a slightly deeper sleep.
I'm waking up a bit more refreshed.
Despite the challenges,
overall Rebecca and John are still feeling positive.
But to see if their confidence lasts,
Yvonne and I will catch up with them at the end of the month.
-So, speak soon.
-Any questions, get in touch.
And if not, we'll speak again in two weeks.
-Thank you very much, Yvonne.
But if exclusion diets have proved hugely popular,
hot on their heels has come perhaps the ultimate example of the idea,
a food regime that takes even more commitment, so-called clean eating.
It's less a diet, more a way of life,
championed by celebrity health gurus,
driven by social media and all over the papers.
But for every headline saying it's the key to a healthy and wholesome
life, there's another dismissing it as an unnecessary and dangerous fad.
Among those who have taken clean eating to heart are Christine Sutton
and her husband, Thomas.
When I'm clean eating, I would normally cut out bad starch,
so high-GI-content foods like white bread, most breads, pasta,
and just stick with meats, fruits, veg, nuts, things like that.
Along with those,
the couple also avoid almost all artificial ingredients and of course
processed meats, even the ones they secretly love.
Unfortunately, bacon is absolutely delicious,
but it's not really conducive to that clean-eating mentality and clean-eating
diet and feeling really good about the food that you're putting
into your body.
Thomas says he adopts clean eating when he wants to lose weight,
but Christine tries to stick to the diet as much as possible and says she
can really feel the difference to her health.
I think that clean eating generally makes me feel a bit better, just
generally in life. So I've got more energy,
I'm less tired during the day at work.
'But not all experts are persuaded on this one,
'and food writer and journalist Bee Wilson doesn't believe
'the idea has any genuine benefit.'
Can you tell me a little bit about clean eating?
-What is it?
-Well, it's this phrase that's started to pop up over the past
five years, and it's associated with these bestselling food books that
promise that if only you can cut out loads of different food groups from
your diet you will glow, you will be thinner,
you'll be happier, you'll be able to do incredibly bendy,
stretchy yoga moves.
So do we have clean food and do we have dirty food?
Is that the insinuation with this?
Well, that's the suggestion.
The idea is that somehow food is moral in some way and that there are
these ingredients, which include anything from kale to avocado to coconut oil,
that are somehow virtuous and pure, and if you can just put enough of
those in your body you're going to be on some kind of higher plane.
But what I really don't like about it is there is an assumption in that
that somehow there must be other foods which are dirty.
So clean eating includes taking out food groups,
not just certain products but whole groups of food, is that correct?
Yes, so they might say avoid all dairy, avoid all foods with wheat,
avoid all gluten. And if I was offering that kind of dietary advice, I'd
want to have really good backing and evidence behind it.
But there isn't any. It's founded on kind of bad science at best.
It's not generally great dietary advice to just tell people to cut out
entire nourishing groups of food for no good reason.
I just read in a clean-eating book recently that a lettuce leaf makes a
great substitute for bread!
'Back in Woking,
'John and Rebecca are nearing the end of their exclusion diets.
'Rebecca has cut out gluten and John has cut out dairy.
'Now is the final weigh-in with Yvonne.
'And it's clear Rebecca didn't find as many gluten-free choices as she'd
So, how did it go?
Yeah, it was good. It was a challenging month.
I do travel around a lot due to my work.
I was just so frustrated that there weren't options available, because it is
such a big problem. And I think that's where my frustration was coming
from, was "Why don't you have the options?"
Or if you do have the options, why am I paying double the price for it and
why am I paying so much extra for it? It really just made me mad.
-I got very passionate about it.
-Right, OK. So, excluding dairy,
you think you had a better diet as a result or ate more healthily?
I think so. At the beginning not so much,
but when I started to prepare my food a bit more I realised a lot of dairy
was incorporated into naughty, what I call treat food.
I had a high level of fat and sugar.
I actually had to turn them away, so I ended up taking healthier options,
like a bit of fruit rather than the cake that was on display.
'A month ago, Yvonne asked John and Rebecca to choose a number out of ten to
'describe how they felt about key areas such as tiredness and digestion.
'Now, after a month of eating differently,
'she's asking them to do the same.
'So, will any of those numbers have changed?'
you said in terms of your digestive system that the wind and the bloating
was a six out of ten, and you've now given that a score of one.
-So that's a huge difference.
I was amazed. I didn't really know what to expect, but it really did
improve, so I haven't had any problems.
'Rebecca had also complained about her energy levels,
'not least because she'd frequently need extra sleeps during the day.'
Well, the energy was interesting, because at the huge old age of 24
you were napping in the day!
It would be weird. I'd be doing something and I'd have this
overwhelming feeling of tiredness.
It wasn't a long nap, it was about half an hour.
But you still shouldn't need that.
-But I needed it. Yeah, I needed it.
-That's quite long.
And, amazingly, that's completely gone.
Yeah. I haven't napped at all.
Like, at all. Can I clarify this? No naps!
'So Rebecca's confident she has felt an improvement since giving up
'gluten. And John, too, reckons he's feeling better.'
So, for you, John, the things that really came up for you was the bloating,
which was a seven out of ten.
And that's reduced right down to a two,
so again a really significant difference there.
'But John's biggest aim for the diet was to cut his body fat,
'and Yvonne's weigh-in shows he has lost four pounds.
'He also says he has more energy and is sleeping better.
'But while it would be easy to assume that means the exclusion diets have
'worked, Yvonne says in fact often simply keeping a food diary is enough to
'help you improve your diet.
'So, in this case, which was the key factor, the dairy or the diary?'
How much of this improvement do you think is down to, actually, your focusing
on your diet more and how much of it do you think is actually due to the
-lack of dairy?
-I think 60% focus and maybe 40% dairy.
Taking dairy out just made you a bit stricter.
So could you do it indefinitely,
"No more dairy for me permanently for the rest of my life"?
No. I think life's too short to, you know,
say no to the really good things in life.
But 90% of the time I reckon I could.
'Remember, John and Rebecca only did
'this exclusion diet under the watchful eye of Yvonne.'
If anybody else is looking at this and thinks, "Maybe I would
-"benefit from cutting out gluten or dairy"...
-..what would you say to them?
the first stop is always check it out with your GP.
If you've been having symptoms for some time, talk them through,
make sure there's nothing medically wrong.
Once the GP says, "No, nothing medically wrong, on you go,"
then it's looking at what might be causing the symptoms and only taking
-out one food group at a time...
..because otherwise it can get REALLY complicated,
and then to do what we've been doing here - to score,
to have a look at the symptoms that you're looking at improving
and see what number out of ten you would give those.
Keep a food diary so that you can look back and say, "Well, actually,
"was it the lack of dairy or was it just I ate better?"
If I'm honest, I still think exclusion diets are a bit of a fad.
But after seeing Rebecca and John so positive about how they feel,
perhaps I'm not quite as sceptical as I was before.
That said, I'd still draw the line at clean eating.
There's no way I'm swapping my
piece of toast at breakfast for a bit of lettuce.
The papers just love a quick-fix weight-loss plan, don't they?
Especially if it's something they can turn into a snappy headline followed
by a list of tricks to tame your appetite or secrets to shed the pounds.
We've all been there once or twice. But, as we've heard today,
taking on board some of those headlines without finding out the bigger
picture too could mean that you're making drastic changes to your diet
that, in the worst cases, could even be dangerous.
You can, of course,
find recipes and ideas related to some of the things we've been talking
about today and, indeed, all of this series at...
And on that note, I'm afraid that's where we have to leave it for
today. So until next time, thank you very much for your company
-and from both of us, bye-bye.
Gloria Hunniford and Chris Bavin investigate the controversial diets that recommend cutting out entire food groups from what you eat. With the experts divided, could some of these quick-fix fads do you more harm than good?
The team also unpicks the startling headlines suggesting everything we have been told about the risk from saturated fats is wrong, and they test why we sometimes keep eating even when we are full. Is there an easy way to switch off your appetite?