The Way Tabloids Are Framing The 'NHS Soup And Shake Diet' Is Irresponsible – Grazia

This week, the NHS soup and shake diet went viral. At least, according to Google Trends. On Monday, ‘NHS soup and shake diet plan’ was a breakout search term. Why? Because it was making headlines after NHS England announced the programme – created to help people with Type 2 diabetes improve their health – had seen a successful initial rollout and would be extended to 11 more regions across the country.
Except, that’s not really how it was framed in the headlines – that is, as a medical intervention diet. Instead, the mention of diabetes was left out of many. ‘NHS soup-and-shake diet scheme to be expanded as patients lose two stone each,’ one headline read. ‘The NHS “soups and shakes” diet works – but for how long?’ another asked. ‘Thousands go on NHS “soup and shake” diet to help them lose weight after success of trials’ a third claimed.
It is perhaps no wonder then, that the diet quickly became a trending topic on Google as countless people scrambled to find out more about this viral eating plan that promises significant weight loss. But that’s just it, most people shouldn’t be on the NHS soup and shake diet – and it’s irresponsible to suggest otherwise.
In fact, the NHS website is careful in its explanation of who this diet is for, clearly stating that there are strict criteria for those who wish to follow the programme – and that they must seek medical advice in order to partake in it.
‘The NHS Low Calorie Diet Programme isn’t suitable for everyone and there are some eligibility requirements that people must meet to be involved,’ the website states. ‘These include that individuals must be aged 18 – 65 years, have a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes within the last 6 years, and have a BMI over 27 kg/m2 (where individuals are from White ethnic groups) or over 25 kg/m2 (where individuals are from Black, Asian and other ethnic groups).’
‘Individuals who live in an area where this service is being delivered will need to discuss their individual circumstances with their GP or diabetes team at their next appointment in order to find out whether it is suitable for them,’ the advice continues.
It’s clear then that this advice should not be recommended for people who do not meet those criteria, yet the diet is being sold to us in tabloids as a revolutionary new weight-loss technique working miracles for thousands.
Of course, it’s incredible that this programme is improving the health of people that need it, preventing further illness and putting Type 2 diabetes into remission for some, according to Professor Jonathan Valabhji, NHS national clinical director for diabetes and obesity.
The problem is not then that this programme is being rolled out on the NHS, it’s the narrative forming online that could see people who don’t have health conditions required to participate in the programme undertake a diet that for them, would be extremely unhealthy.
'The NHS Soup and Shake weight loss programme has been specifically designed to help people living with Type 2 diabetes,' explains Dr. Feyisara Mendes. 'It is only available for patients with diabetes who meet certain criteria. Those taking part are given a specific meal and exercise plan supported by medical specialists and health coaches. They are also closely followed up, with a healthy balanced diet gradually re-introduced to support long term health and wellbeing.
'Most importantly, they are closely monitored throughout the trial as rapid uncontrolled weight loss can be dangerous,' Dr Mendes continues. 'Without the right supervision, people with or without diabetes can experience irritability, headaches, dizziness, tiredness, constipation and diarrohea. This is caused by sudden shifts in your body's salt and fluid balance and muscle damage that can affect important organs such as your brain, heart and kidneys.'
The way we talk about dieting matters. Whether it’s promoting healthier attitudes towards our bodies or protecting those vulnerable to eating disorders – which has resulted in a 66% rise in hospital admissions in the last 10 years -, framing this diet as anything other than a possible medical intervention programme for certain people with Type 2 diabetes is completely irresponsible.
If you're struggling with diabetes, speak to your GP or visit Diabetes UK
If you’re struggling with an eating disorder or worried about someone else’s health, you can contact Beat, 365 days a year, on 0808 801 0677 or visit beateatingdisorders.org.uk
Read More:
'How I Broke Up With My Eating Disorder'
There’s A New Eating Disorder 'Epidemic' Among These Women
How To Talk To Your Children About Eating Disorders
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