New diet ‘clean eating’ could have serious health implications

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Clean eating diets can be dangerous for young people at risk of eating disorders

Dr Mark Berelowitz, an eating disorder specialist, said 80%-90% of his patients at the Royal Free Hospital in North London followed clean eating diets. Clean eating diets can be a “catastrophe” for young people at risk of anorexia and bulimia.

The restrictive diets, which exclude sugar, meat, dairy products, carbohydrates and gluten, are championed by celebrity bloggers and there are hundreds of instagram accounts promoting clean eating.

Berelowitz said that while cutting out carbohydrates and fat was good advice for overweight adults, for teenagers and people who had a troubled relationship with food it could be dangerous.

Anorexic young woman measuring her waist

Dr Mark Berelowitz said the term ‘clean eating’ was itself dangerous

Berelowitz said the term ‘clean eating’ was itself dangerous as it “gives someone who is battling to hold on to their health a misplaced sense that they ought not to have that peanut-butter sandwich for a snack, and instead have some raw broccoli”.

He said: “People with eating disorders often worry about being greedy and the whole ‘clean’ thing is so anti-greedy.

“Calling this kind of regime ‘clean’ is a sort of deliberate or accidental marketing myth that emphasises one approach to eating at almost any cost.

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“It starts to make people think that perfectly healthy foods like red meat are bad for you.

“The ones who are most likely to be attracted by these blogs are people who are already overly self-critical.”

Woman eating a salmon nigiri sushi

The clean eating diets can be very restrictive

Every week Berelowitz sees a new patient who is secretly preoccupied with clean eating and trying to follow the advice on websites.

“A typical case would be a 14-year-old girl who has been looking at these sites for a long time and subtly adjusting her eating, and is now very skinny,” he said.

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He said patients became “addicted” to the blogs and used them as a justification for unhealthy eating who believes the bloggers could do more to stress that such a diet is not appropriate for teens.