Junkfood Science: Who says advising lots of water is harmless?

July 23, 2008

Who says advising lots of water is harmless?

Beliefs that our bodies need detoxification, that drinking lots of water can flush away toxins and help jump start a weight loss diet, and that “life coaches” calling themselves nutritionists are licensed health professionals, all came together for one woman with heartbreaking results. Even water is not harmless.

As the BBC reports:

Woman left brain damaged by detox

A woman has been awarded more than £800,000 after she suffered permanent brain damage while on a detox diet. The High Court heard Dawn Page, 52, began vomiting uncontrollably after starting The Amazing Hydration Diet. Mrs Page, from Oxfordshire, later had an epileptic seizure which damaged her memory, speech and concentration.

Her nutritionist Barbara Nash has denied any wrongdoing and the High Court ratified the settlement without mention of liability... when she started vomiting Mrs Nash told her it was a normal part of the detoxification process... Her husband Geoff, 54, said...his wife had previously tried several other diets and had been told to drink four pints of water a day by Mrs Nash...

'Nonsense'. Detox diets are based on the theory that toxins from "unhealthy" food and drink build up in the body and can lead to health problems. Purging those toxins - through restricted diets, lots of water or using particular supplements - is meant to leave people feeling better and, often, thinner... Dr Andrew Wadge, of the Food Standards Agency, has branded detox regimes "nonsense" and said the body has its own system of getting rid of toxins - the liver.

Dieticians are regulated by law in the UK, but nutritionists and nutritional therapists are not...

As the Times added:

Mrs Nash, who calls herself a “nutritional therapist and life coach”, denies any fault and the settlement was concluded without admission of liability. Mrs Nash’s insurance company will pay the damages. In September 2001 Mrs Page paid Mrs Nash £50 for an initial consultation. She said that she was advised to drink four pints of mineral water per day as well as the tea and other fluids that she normally drank.

After a few days she started vomiting but was allegedly assured by Mrs Nash that it was “all part of the detoxification process”. Mrs Page, who weighed 12 stone (76kg), was even urged to increase her water intake to six pints a day and cut her salt intake further...

The credentials of her nutritionist and life coach, according to the Guardian, came from a diploma from the College of Natural Nutrition in Tiverton, Devon. You’ll note that the college offers diplomas in complementary medicine. Its latest newsletter even warns of the dangers of invisible WiFi and electromagnetic radiation.

Seeking medical and health advice from your own trusted healthcare provider, rather than a third party whose credentials, expertise and interests you don’t know, is a valuable take-home lesson. This cautionary note applies for us, too, and those faceless life coaches and wellness coaches that call from wellness programs or health advisors on the internet. There’s a lot of woo out there.

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