A new fad diet takes a page out of ancient history, but is it for real?
If there’s one thing overweight citizens of developed nations are hungry for (besides empty calories), it’s the latest fad diet. Some claim to be based on the latest scientific research, while others are born (or fabricated) of old wives’ tales (think: “One weird old trick for losing fat”). Now, it appears that some dieters have turned to a somewhat unconventional source: The Bible. The “God Diet,” properly known as the Daniel Fast, requires that people eat nothing but fruit, vegetables and whole grains. Astute readers may recognize this as “veganism.”
Followers only drink water and avoid eating meat, fish, bread and any sweetened or processed foods. The eating plan is based on that followed by the Old Testament prophet, Daniel.
Susan Gregory is the author of The Daniel Cure: The Daniel Fast Way to Vibrant Health, and in a YouTube video, she explains the diet in more detail. In the Old Testament, Daniel, who was being held captive by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar, decides not to follow the monarch’s diet of wine and meat. Instead, he and his companions eat nothing but vegetables and drink only water for 10 days. Daniel 1:15 states that, at the end of the period, the men looked healthier than those who had eaten the king’s food.
These, and other biblical descriptions of Daniel’s fasts, form the basis of the “new” eating plan.
Gregory is not alone in touting the benefits of antiquated, protest-motivated dietary guidelines. Rick Warren is the pastor of the Saddleback Church in Southern California and creator of the website danielplan.com. He and his mega-church advocate a long-term version of “The Daniel Plan,” which begins with giving up processed foods, sugar, caffeine and alcohol for 40 days, according to The Atlantic. While the dietary restrictions are virtually identical to Gregory’s plan, Warren’s involves a greater emphasis on the faith-based aspects.
Though referred to as a “fast,” that’s a bit of a misnomer considering that adherents to the plan do, in fact, consume calories. It’s only fasting in the sense that followers cut back, rather than stop eating food altogether – in a similar vein to the the 5:2 plan (where followers eat a restricted diet two days a week).
Ms Gregory, who described the Daniel Fast as a “vegan diet with even more restrictions,” says following the diet involves avoiding caffeine, chemicals and sugar and, as a result, it can ease headaches, leg cramps and fatigue.
She added it can also cause people’s cholesterol levels to fall and their blood sugar levels to balance out and that the diet often leads to weight loss and “a general feeling of wellbeing.” However, she adds that while the diet is a very healthy way to eat, people with health problems might need to modify it.
Nutritionists, trained professionals familiar with the science behind such things, aren’t quite as convinced.
Nutritionist Zoe Harcombe explained to MailOnline that the health impacts would depend on for how long someone follows the diet.
According to Harcombe, following the diet for only a few days would cause to few, if any, health issues. Any longer than that though, she says, could lead to dangerous deficiencies in Vitamins A, D, E, and B12. Those deficiencies can, in extreme cases, lead to blindness, muscle and bone weakness, and immune system depletion. She notes that adherents would need to take vitamin supplements to compensate.
Harcombe did add that the diet is good in the sense that it involves cutting out junk food, sugar, white flour and processed foods. This reduces the chance of obesity and lowers a person’s risk of some cancers, heart disease and diabetes.
Unsurprisingly, regardless of the name or fad, the formula for better health and lower weight remains plain, vanilla healthy eating.