Diet doctors go to war

Diet Doctors at WarTwo French dieticians head to court tomorrow to fight a libel battle after one branded the other’s diet a ‘fantasy’.

As a woman currently battling with her own body demons, I was interested in what initially sounded like one doctor standing up against the constant, damaging stream of fad diets spewing forth from an industry that – in spite of its increasing revenues – is having no impact on the spiralling trend of obesity and disordered eating.

Pierre Dukan claims that Jean-Michel Cohen libelled him in an interview in which he said Dukan’s diet was a “dangerous re-hashing of old ideas which can increase cholesterol and generate heart problems and breast cancer”, and that the only people to benefit from Dukan’s diet – an extreme diet excluding all foods but protein – as “The slimming industry, doctors, pill salesmen, publishers, newspapers… Everyone who has climbed on to the bandwagon of this fantasy.”

Any diet that excludes any – let alone several – key food groups cannot be a good thing, so so far so good. But Jean-Michel Cohen is not himself without fault. Whilst he does promote sensible eating and regular exercise – no bad things – he also endorses a 900 calories a day ‘rapid’ programme. Unless it’s specifically tailored for the calorific needs of small children, I’m not sure that counts as a sensible consideration either.

Both men’s diets have been criticised by French nutrition watchdog, who advised people to ignore the “nutritional cacophony” and follow simple rules for a balanced diet. As Jean-Michel Lecerf, head of the nutrition service at the Institut Pasteur in Lille, said: “Slimming makes you fat.”  Obesity may be an increasing problem, but with 80% of people who follow diets from books putting on all (if not more) of the weight within a year, fad diets of any shape or size are never going to be the solution.

So who will win the battle of the diet doctors? It scarcely matters. Whatever the outcome, both diets will gain massive publicity as people desperate for a solution to their weight or body image issues grab on to anything that promises to help. It’s another great result for the diet industry, far less so for the people being exploited by it.

Read more about the case at The Independent.


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