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Food fails: Why celebrity diet advice should be taken with a grain of salt

12 October 2020

Look at any prominent lifestyle media channel and you’ll soon find the key to living well is eating: more. less. paleo. raw. flexitarian. high protein. no sugar. no carbs. low fat. high fat. no nightshades. gluten free.

The morass of dietary information pedalled by food marketers and social media influencers from Kim Kardashian to homegrown chef and self-proclaimed ‘health coach’ Peter Evans, is, according to Princess Alexandra Hospital Research Dietitian and Mediterranean Diet (MedDiet) expert Dr Hannah Mayr, a recipe for disaster for consumers.

“It’s a challenging information environment for sure. A lot of people are giving dietary advice when they lack the education and research evidence to support it. I always encourage patients to listen to their health professional, ideally an Accredited Practising Dietitian, rather than other sources of information that may not be credible.”

Dr Mayr said picking food heroes and villains, as celebrity-endorsed fad diets often do, is unhelpful and that many are not designed to be balanced or support wellbeing into the long-term.

“The types of diet that work and can be followed ongoing are not about restricting a certain nutrient or food group, or being strict on calories. The diets that are easy to follow are pattern-based and combine healthy foods together,” Dr Mayr said.

“What we have learned is that there are key patterns that are shown to have health benefits and one of those is the pattern of eating that is traditionally seen in Mediterranean countries.”

Dr Mayr said the Mediterranean healthy eating pattern, known affectionately as the Mediterranean or MedDiet, is associated with reduced risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes and is promoted by The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and National Heart Foundation.

“For people who want to eat better and kickstart their health during National Nutrition Week, I recommend they skip the fad diets and focus on consuming more fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, wholegrains, extra virgin olive oil, fish and seafood, and limit their intake of red meat, processed foods, and sugary drinks,” Dr Mayr said.

“The best research evidence available shows this approach to eating is good for our heart, mood, and overall wellbeing.” 

To celebrate National Nutrition Week, 11-18 October, PA Hospital’s Cafeteria is selling Mediterranean Diet-approved dishes (PDF, 3.38 MB) for hospital staff, patients and visitors. Enjoy Mediterranean Vegetable and Persian Fetta Salad and 600ml Nu Water for only $10, or Mediterranean Chicken with Tomato and Vegetable Sauce on Couscous and 600ml Nu Water for just $10.50.

Last updated 12 October 2020
Last reviewed 12 October 2020

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