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Berlusconi's diet secret revealed: herbal tea

The secret behind the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's remarkable staying power – both political and otherwise – has been revealed as herbal tea.

The irrepressible 74-year-old playboy announced yesterday that the drink formed the basis of a special diet that has enabled him to lose 4kg (9lb) in little more than a week. The regimen appears so effective that the opposition La Repubblica newspaper suggested yesterday that the Prime Minister now looked all "flesh and bones".

Mr Berlusconi revealed the details behind his recent weight loss during a dinner on Sunday at a top Milan restaurant after watching his football club, AC Milan, beat their arch rivals Juventus. Typically eschewing false modesty, the conservative tycoon told fellow diners: "Thanks to this diet I'm back in great form." He then requested "something light" to eat, according to Chi magazine.

The billionaire tycoon often emerges from his summer breaks sporting the results of cosmetic interventions and unorthodox health plans. In 2004, he welcomed the Blairs to his Sardinian villa for a holiday wearing a bandanna to conceal his hair transplant, which he judged had taken 25 years off him.

Two summers ago, Mr Berlusconi employed Frau Gertraud Mitterrutzner von Guggenberg and her team from a private clinic in the mountains of South Tyrol to whip him back into shape with a strict daily routine of muesli and sit-ups. Officials said the regimen, which also included colonic irrigation and relaxation methods, would "allow him to slim down and reactivate his metabolism". Mr Berlusconi is said to be concerned about the extra pounds he puts on as a result of steroid injections needed for his neck pain.