Carol Vorderman has lost half a stone on a new herbal diet. LIZ BESTIC investigates
Television presenter Carol Vorderman appeared in the tabloids last week looking stunning with a svelte new figure, a sassy haircut and a naughty twinkle in her eye. No mystery lovers for Vorderman though. It is a more mundane affair which has put the sparkle back into her life - a relationship with a murky green liquid, which looks like mashed grass, and tastes like it too. She claims it has transformed her skin, helped her shed half a stone and given her "bucketloads of energy".

What is this miracle cure? The brainchild of American naturopath Robert Gray, it's called The Intestinal Cleansing Programme, and costs pounds 150 for three months' supply. Full of natural goodies, it contains herbs including spirulina, onion, dandelion root and cornsilk, designed to clean out the mucus and toxins which, according to the manufacturers, are built up in the colon over the years.

Breakfast is a glass of the sludgy juice, followed by a glass of water and a herbal tablet, containing Irish moss, cloves (to improve blood circulation), chickweed, cornsilk, bayberry bark and rosemary.

According to naturopath and nutritionist John Eastman from the Hale Clinic these are safe cleansing ingredients. Irish Moss improves the immune system and lymphatic drainage while spirulina - a rich source of vitamins and minerals - acts as a nutrient during the cleansing process. "Dandelion root purifies the blood, cornsilk cleanses the kidneys and bayberry bark helps digestion," he adds. The tablets contain psyllium husks which act as a bulking agent to ensure regular trips to the loo.

Before you get overexcited, dash out to a health shop and stock up on five years worth of Intestinal Cleansing gear, bear this in mind. Carol followed the advice on the packet to stick to a diet of raw fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds. She cut out dairy products, proteins and junk food and stopped drinking alcohol, tea and coffee. Her "detox" diet was centred on alkaline-forming foods like fruit, vegetables, almonds, brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, brown rice and millet grain. To put it in plain English, her eating regime is hell on earth.

"No wonder she looks good and has lost pounds," says Lyndel Costain, nutritionist and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association. "When people dramatically change their eating patterns they usually lose weight and often find their skin and hair improves. Some of these preparations have a laxative effect and so they have probably got things moving more quickly. The overall effect would be less bloating in the gut and a general energy boost."

But Costain is not knocking the diet. In fact she says the BDA is actively encouraging people to eat a healthier diet containing more fruit and vegetables, but what does concern her is that three months is a long time to go without calcium and iron. "It's true, you do get some calcium in vegetables and fruit but you would have to eat around 20 servings of broccoli a day to get the required amount."

The product also claims to strip away the layer of mucous matter in the colon gently in a similar way to colonic irrigation. That worries Costain too. "We have loads of bacteria in our colon which is there for a very good reason. It is one of our main defence systems and we now know that the colon produces certain by-products which may be useful in protecting us against cancer and lowering blood cholesterol. The idea that our intestines are blocked up with a huge amount of waste products is ridiculous. If they were, we would all be seriously underweight and malnourished because we couldn't absorb our food properly and it would come straight out the other end," she says.

Neither does Costain like the word toxins. In her opinion, we all produce waste which is a by-product of the way we metabolise food, but we also have a highly successful way of getting rid of it via the liver and kidneys. "That's what those organs are there to do. There is no way that toxins can `build up' in the body unless you are suffering from severe kidney malfunction," she says.

In other words, the bucketloads of energy that Vorderman glowingly proclaims is more to do with the fact that she is now eating better, exercising regularly and feels more in control. Still, not to worry; when you earn pounds 5m a year, you have to spend it on something, don't you, Carol?