TV health guru Michael Mosley has vowed to overhaul an online diet plan after we found users could set potentially lethal weight-loss goals.
Dr Mosley hosted Channel 4 series Lose a Stone in 21 Days in which five overweight participants ate 800 calories a day for three weeks during lockdown.
It was slammed by eating disorder charity Beat, which saw a 50 per cent rise in calls after the first episode.
Dr Mosley told viewers the plan – known as the Fast 800 – was only suitable for those who were clinically overweight or obese.
But we found it was being sold online for £99 – and users at healthy weights were allowed to set “life-threatening” targets.
In response, he has pledged to:
- Ensure users cannot set goals which make them underweight.
- Look at providing links to NHS resources on mental health.
- Change a meal plan which totalled a miserly 673 calories on one day.
The doctor – a popular TV figure and famous for developing the 5:2 diet – boasted in a recent interview he was paid “silly money” to write a book about the Fast 800 regime.
We signed up, giving a reporter’s real weight and body mass index of 24. Between 20 and 25 is considered healthy.
Subscribers in this category were not warned that following the plan might be unsuitable as they are not overweight.
Users were asked to confirm they are not clinically underweight, breastfeeding, pregnant or a Type 1 diabetic.
A history of eating disorders was not flagged among the risks on the sign-up page.
Instead, users were told to read a medical disclaimer – buried in small print – which says the diet is not recommended for people who have an eating disorder, or a history or suspicion of one.
Shockingly, the website allowed our reporter to set a target weight of 6st – and a drop in BMI to 13.9. Anything under 18 can indicate an eating disorder and medics say 14 and below can signal a potentially fatal case of anorexia.
Eating disorder specialist Dr Bijal Chheda-Varma, of London’s Nightingale Hospital, said: “If your BMI drops below 14, we normally consider in-patient admission as this is life threatening.
“Your periods would stop. It would make bones very deficient and osteo-porosis could be a side-effect. It would also affect blood pressure and you’d have nutrient deficiency. You would not be able to focus or put any mental energy into work because we also need calories to burn in our cognitive efforts as well. The key concern is there isn’t a screening process at the start of the plan. Screening is crucial – not just by a computer.
“A human should work through these records. This would stop people with normal BMIs buying the plan, and an eating disorder would be picked up.”
We studied the low-carb meal plan for week one and found on four of the seven days the intake was fewer than 800 calories. One…