Nutritionist Lyndsey Heffernan reveals the terrifying risks of the new Hollywood diet fad
If there’s one thing we know about Hollywood, it’s that those guys love their faddy diets. But the latest – the Apple Cider Vinegar diet (ACV) – could be the most disturbing one yet, with side effects including tooth erosion, caustic burns to your throat and potassium deficiency that affects muscle and nerve function.
With celebs such as Megan Fox and Miranda Kerr singing its praises, Now investigates the ACV diet and why experts have branded it ‘dangerous’.
The ACV diet in its most basic form involves drinking 1-2tbsp of vinegar before a meal, as the liquid’s thought to curb the appetite, cleanse your system, reduce sugar cravings, lower water weight and even burn fat.
Fans include actress Megan, 28, who praised it as ‘cleansing out your system entirely’, and model Miranda, 31, who admitted to enjoying apple cider vinegar on her salad.
Other fans reportedly include Cindy Crawford, who ‘sips vinegar to kill her appetite before dinner’ and singer Fergie, who’s admitted to taking vinegar shots. Actresses Tara Reid and Kate Bosworth are also said to be fans. US reports last week also claimed Nicole Richie has been embracing the ACV diet and her weight’s now down to a terrifying 6st, with insiders calling her ‘painfully thin.’ And where Hollywood leads, the UK follows, as sources tell Now many celebs over here are looking into the diet.
Possible side effects
Nutritionist Lyndsey Heffernan tells Now the ACV diet’s worrying because ‘very little research has been done on it’. She reveals: ‘One 2004 study seemed to suggest taking it before meals could help reduce blood glucose levels – good news for people at risk of diabetes – but it’s very unlikely to be a weight-loss wonder food.
‘There’s little harm in having a small amount of cider vinegar with meals, but it is highly acidic so could cause tooth erosion and damage to your throat. It could also interfere with certain medications (diuretics, laxatives, heart and diabetes medication) and lead to low potassium if used excessively over a long period. This can worsen osteoporosis, cause spasms, cramps, muscle weakness, breathing issues and, in very extreme cases, hypokalemia – a form of paralysis.’
Health professionals also warn that vinegar may have blood-thinning properties and could cause increased bleeding if you’re taking medication such as heparin or warfarin. US doctor Michael Dansinger says: ‘I’m concerned that drinking vinegar, even diluted in water, increases acid in your system, which puts a strain on your kidneys and bones.’
If that’s not disturbing enough, Lyndsey has heard of young women taking the ACV diet a step further. ‘They could be replacing meals altogether with cider vinegar, which could be catastrophic,’ she says. ‘Vinegar contains hardly any calories, so you’d be at risk of starvation.
‘Side effects of extreme calorie reduction include bad breath, headaches, palpitations, fainting – or, even worse, osteoporosis, heart failure, kidney failure and even death. It’s very serious and definitely not recommended.’
It might be a disturbing new celeb diet, but the ACV diet is likely to be another fad. One study in Japan found only a 1-2lb weight loss over a three-month period – and the 175 participants were said to have put it all back on after the study was over. Not very impressive, right?
Lyndsey adds: ‘Any weight loss you’d achieve by following the basic ACV plan would be minimal and no more than you’d achieve by following a healthy diet. But there are other health benefits, such as supported immune function and help with constipation. Other studies claim it can help with heartburn – and it’s said to be great for your hair.’
So if you’re daring enough to try it, Lyndsey says you can do so safely by limiting your intake to 1-2tbsp a day once or twice a day. ‘Dilute the vinegar in water and drink it with a straw to protect your teeth. Or better still, drizzle it onto salads. Buy the cloudiest product you can find – clear vinegar is more processed so has fewer nutritious properties. Above all, make sure you consult your doctor if you’re diabetic, at risk of diabetes or have low potassium levels.’
We think this might be one diet we’d rather skip altogether…