Suffer the little calories: give thanks for the Bible Diet

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The Independent US

Thou shalt not eat junk food or snack between meals is the 11th commandment for millions of Americans caught up in a Bible-based slimming craze.

Thou shalt not eat junk food or snack between meals is the 11th commandment for millions of Americans caught up in a Bible-based slimming craze.

In The Weigh Down Diet, Gwen Shamblinadvises readers to stick within "God's perfect boundaries of hunger and fullness" if they want to shed a pound or two.

Dr Don Colbert, author of What Would Jesus Eat?advocates consuming large amounts of "living foods" from non-animal sources and cutting out processed or "dead" foods completely.

Meanwhile, the Rev George Malkmus, from North Carolina, has a successful range of books featuring his Hallelujah Diet, inspired by Genesis 1:29: "And God said, 'Behold, I have given you every herb-bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the Earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree-yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.'"

Mr Malkmus recommends an 80 per cent raw food diet and bans all animal products except pure honey. He argues that, in Biblical times, people who ate a raw diet lived an average of 912 years, although concedes he lacks the science to prove it.

But "the Lord gave us everything we need in the Garden of Eden: fruit vegetables, nuts and seeds," he insists. "That's why we call the way we eat the Hallelujah Diet. We celebrate its true creator."

However, even God could be forgiven for getting confused by the conflicting advice being touted by the Christian health brigade. In The Maker's Diet, the most recent addition to this particular slimming genre, author Jordan S Rubin warns against a strict vegan and raw food regimen.

Instead, his approach, drawn from Leviticus, promotes "consuming meats, poultry, dairy in a form the body was designed for". That, says Mr Rubin - who describes himself as "a biblical health coach" - means eating yoghurt derived from raw, fermented milk rather than the pasteurised, low-fat, flavoured variety.

So far, nutrition experts are unconvinced. Louise Sutton, a dietitian who is head of health and exercise science at Leeds Metropolitan University, thinks some of the approaches go too far.

"Of course you will lose weight if you start cutting out whole food groups and eating only uncooked meals," she says. "But it is so difficult to stick to. Diets that advocate such harsh changes from normal eating patterns are not healthy."

She adds that certain recommendations, such as the use of unpasteurised foods, are unrealistic and inadvisable. "The idea might appeal to people who favour a back-to-nature, organic approach, but it's risky to health and is certainly not something that will benefit anyone in today's society."

Certainly, none of the books meets current healthy eating guidelines. In the case of 70-year-old Mr Malkmus's diet plan, one researcher found it to be deficient in certain vitamins.

He admits to being shocked by the thought that "God's eating plan might have a flaw", but puts it down to fruits and vegetables being more nutritious before intensive farming methods eradicated vitamins and minerals from the topsoil.

Cynics suggest that the underlying motives of the authors are perhaps not entirely Christian, that maybe they are swelling their coffers by cashing in on the $40m US diet market.

Already, there are spin-off products being launched off the back of the Bible diet craze, including a range of supplements and "advanced hygiene" toiletries being marketed by Mr Rubin's company, Garden of Life.

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