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DUBLIN, Sept 8 (AFP) - Many popular diets promoted by thin celebrities are not backed up by research and can be unhealthy, a nutritionist told a science conference on Thursday.
Dr Claire MacEvilly, nutrition communications manager with Britain's Medical Research Council, said 24 percent of women and 10 percent of men are actively trying to lose weight at any one time.
Another one third of adults are said to be watching their weight, she told the British Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Dublin.
"This is hardly surprising considering the rates of overweight and obesity, the social pressure to be slim and the plethora of popular diets on offer, frequently endorsed by thin celebrities."
She said many of the celebrity-endorsed diets and books come with the seeds of failure already planted -- restriction, deprivation, hunger and branded foods.
"The dietary advice is usually focused on a specific issue ignoring the variety which is an integral part of good nutrition. In addition, the fad diets often do not include the recommended combination of reducing caloric intake and increasing physical activity.
"Fad diets usually offer what health professionals do not -- fast results and substantial weight loss."
MacEvilly said that in addition to wanting results fast, most obese individuals turn to social icons and role models to define an unrealistic weight target.
"This has distorted the public perception of a health body size, encourages the pursuit of excessive thinness and unrealistic weight goals."
She said studies have shown that most people entering a weight loss programme wish to lose more than 20 percent of their initial weight, yet sustaining this is almost unachievable.
"The reality is that even total starvation will only yield losses of 2-3 kilogrammes of fat per week and will have significant adverse effects.
"Undoubtedly some 'diets' exclude whole foods and important nutrients as well as advocating short term weight loss. Their success is supported by testimonials rather than published research."
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