Celebrities from Beyoncé to Victoria Beckham still swear by them, but for the mass of the British population it seems that the fad diet has lost its allure. Despite soaring obesity rates, research shows that people are turning their backs on so-called miracle diets that promise much but deliver little more than bad breath and short-lived relief in the tight trouser department.
The death of the diet is revealed in a report by Mintel, the market research firm. Sales of quick-fix slimming products have slumped by a third over the past five years to £79m in 2007, while the annual rate of growth in reduced fat, calorie or sugar products has slowed almost to a standstill. Manufacturers have cottoned on to this and are changing how they market diet versions of popular brands. The yogurt maker Muller is to start marketing Muller Light on its contents and taste – "thicker, creamier-tasting and even fruitier" – instead of its diet credentials.
"Attitudes to dieting have become more negative with a higher proportion of consumers believing that they are hard to follow, confusing and may be harmful," according to the report, which warned that the £2bn slimming market would contract unless manufacturers altered their approach.
Just 8 per cent of adults questioned said they now choose a specific diet such as Atkins or the GI plan to shed excess weight, with 35 per cent adding that they believe more exercise, not dieting, is the best way to lose weight. The research also showed that half the respondents were most likely to cut down on fats and snacks when trying to lose weight.
The findings put the British public in stark contrast with the inhabitants of Los Angeles, who remain enamoured of the quick fix, regardless of the health consequences. A new book, The Black Book of Hollywood Diet Secrets, shows the lengths some celebrities will go to in pursuit of a super-svelte physique.
For John Cusack that means avoiding all white foods, while Renée Zellweger puts her faith in the power of an oversized cup of coffee. After all, extreme can yield results, as Beyoncé Knowles showed when she shed one and half stone by sticking to her diluted maple syrup cocktail for a fortnight.
The Mintel report suggests people are embracing a new definition of healthy food, ditching diet products for organic meat and vegetables and functional foods with added ingredients such as omega-3 fatty acids. This is the message in the latest book from the US food writer Michael Pollan, In Defence of Food, which advocates eating real food, "not too much, mostly plants".
Monica Grenfell, a dietician and author of books such as Crash Diet, said she thought people had given up on dieting because they no longer cared what they look like. "It isn't because people are thinking they'll just eat more healthily but because standards have slipped so people are happier to be a size 14."
Food fads of the rich and famous
Plans to lose her pregnancy weight by inhaling grapefruit oil
Swigs vinegar before dinner to suppress her appetite, reportedly
Never misses his daily double dose of asparagus and parsley
Follows the Cookie Diet, eating biscuits for breakfast and lunchReuse content