Sunday, January 04, 2009

Detox diets are a 'nonsense', dieticians warn

Detox diets championed by celebrities including Carol Vorderman and Gillian McKeith are "nonsense" and a waste of money, dieticians have warned. The British Dietetic Association, which represents 6,000 dieticians across Britain, said that there was no "potion or lotion" which could "magically" rid the body of chemicals. The theory behind detox - that dangerous toxins build up in the body - was dismissed by the health experts, who said the body was constantly cleaning itself.

Thousands of slimmers are expected to try a detox diet in the next few weeks, spurred by guilt over heavy drinking and eating during the festive period. A wide range of different kits, including ready-prepared vitamin drinks and diet plans, are available on the high street and from specialist health shops. Vorderman launched her own range of detox books after losing weight and a detox plan is also sold as part of McKeith's health food range. They are based on the theory that chemicals and other pollutants remain in our bodies over time, causing health problems, and need to be removed. Dieters undergoing a detox are usually advised to cut out a wide range of "unhealthy" foods and supplement their diet with vitamin drinks.

But the BDA insists that there is no such toxic build-up, and branded the industry "pseudo scientific". Dr Frankie Phillips, a spokesperson for the BDA, said: "The whole idea of detox is nonsense. "The body is a well-developed system that has its own built-in mechanisms to detoxify and remove waste from top to toe. "Skin, the gut and liver and kidneys are all chemically-controlled powerhouses that respond to signals in the form of, for example, hormones, to remove waste products - typically detoxifying the body constantly.

"There are no pills or specific drinks, patches or lotions that can do a magic job. "If you have over-indulged on alcohol, for example, the liver works hard to break down the alcohol into products it can remove. "Being well-hydrated is a sensible strategy. "It sounds predicable, but for the vast majority of people, a sensible diet and regular physical activity really are the only ways to properly protect your health for the year ahead."

The BDA warns that only eating sensibly and drinking plenty of fluids can help the bodies' natural cleansing system. The group recommends that New Year's diet resolutions include drinking enough fluids, around six to eight glasses a day is sufficient; keeping a diet diary; making small changes that will last, such as eating one extra portion of fruit or vegetables a day; and planning meals ahead. The BDA represents registered dietitians across Britain and two-thirds of its members are employed by the NHS.

Carol Vorderman, whose books include Detox for Life, said: "I've put everything I think about detoxes in my book and without seeing what the dieticians have written I can't make any further comment."


Gene that predicts risk of heart attack identified by scientists

Thousands of heart attacks could be prevented after a gene associated with early hardening of the arteries was identified by scientists.

Millions of people under 40 across the world suffer without knowing from early coronary artery disease, which in many cases leads to heart attacks in later life. Now researchers believe they have pinpointed a gene or marker that can help predict in advance whether someone is at increased risk.

They believe that this could lead to a test to identify the latent threat of hardened arteries so that patients could be given dietary advice and other treatment before too much damage is done.

"These young patients are a vulnerable population on whom coronary artery disease has a significant long-term impact, but they are particularly hard to identify and therefore to initiate preventive therapies for," said Dr Svati Shah, co-author of the study at Duke University Medical School in North Carolina. "These and other genetic findings may help us in the future to identify these patients prior to development of coronary artery disease or their first heart attack."

For years, scientists have known that the devastating, early-onset form of the disease was inherited, but they knew little about the genes responsible until now.

In a previous study, a region on chromosome 7 was linked to coronary artery disease. More recently, the researchers focused on identifying the gene in this region that leads to the higher risk of early-onset coronary heart disease and identified a variation in the protein known that is linked to the condition. Known as neuropeptide Y (NPY), it is one of the most plentiful and important proteins in the body and is linked to the control of appetite and feeding behaviour, among other things.

The current research, led by Dr Shah and Dr Elizabeth Hauser, found evidence for six related variations in the NPY gene that show evidence of transmission from generation to generation and association across a population of early-onset coronary artery disease patients.

The researchers evaluated 1,000 families for coronary artery disease or evidence of a true heart attack, as part of a larger study put together by Duke University. They found a strong link between the mutant gene and those with actual heart disease or ancestral history of the disease. "If you had 1 or 2 copies of this mutant version of the gene, there could be a change in NPY level," Dr Shah said. "The concept is that small changes over time can promote atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) at a very young age."

Experiments on mice subsequently confirmed that the NPY promotes atherosclerosis, according to the report published in the Public Library of Science journal.


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