Weight-loss Diet is not Without Risk
  • Country – France

    AFDN - “Weight-loss diet is not without risk and requires personalised supervision by a health professional...”

    On 25 November 2010, The French Agency for Food Safety (ANSES) published an expert report* on the risks related to dietary weight-loss practices and submitted this report to all stakeholders including the French Association of Nutritionist Dietitians (AFDN) for consultation. On 4 May 2011, in the light of the feedback received, the Agency has published its opinion confirming that going on weight-loss diets is not without risk and requires personalised supervision by a health professional.

    ANSES received a request from the Directorate General of Health for an assessment of the risks related to dietary weight-loss practices. This solicited request fell within the scope of the overall issue of "body image" addressed by the National Nutrition Program 2 (PNNS 2) (2006-2010).

    The published report is the result of eighteen months work of a working group composed of scientists and nutrition experts including 2 dietitians.

    15 weight-loss diets were selected on the basis of their French popularity, i.e. those most frequently mentioned on the Internet or corresponding to the best-selling books in stores or on the Internet. The expert assessment showed that weight-loss diets, widely available to the public in stores and via the Internet, and followed without specialist recommendation or supervision, may induce health damage. It highlighted the adverse effects on the body, including the bones, heart and kidneys, as well as psychological disturbances including behavioural eating disorders.

    Dietary weight-loss practices could increase risks of being overweight –

    An analysis of the scientific data also confirmed that going on weight-loss diets can cause profound changes to the body's energy metabolism and the physiological regulation of eating behaviour, as well as psychological disturbances (behavioural eating disorders, depression and loss of self-esteem after repeated failures in dieting).

    Such modifications are often the cause of a vicious circle including the regaining of weight - often more than initially - in the medium or long term. Weight regain affects 80% of subjects after a year, and increases with time.

    The main conclusion of the report is that the attempt to lose weight by going on slimming diets can only be justified from a medical point of view if the patient is actually suffering from overweight and that such diets should be supervised by specialists - doctors specialised in nutrition, dietitians - who are best qualified to recommend a suitable diet for each individual.

    A single rule - stick to simple nutritional principles combined with regular physical activity. 

    According to Isabelle Parmentier, President of the French Association of Nutritionist Dietitians (AFDN),"There is a phenomenon of fashion around food and around nutrition but also a cacophony in messages. Too many statements are disseminated, so people lose their bearings and the message is blurred! Our main aim is to come back to simple, commonsense messages which are understood by everybody. A well-balanced diet does not only mean correct nutritional inputs but also the pleasure of eating. Furthermore, for populations such as pregnant women or teenagers, unjustified weight loss diets can have unhealthy consequences; it is also necessary to raise awareness on these risks.”

    AFDN, which has been stressing for years upon the interest of a well-balanced, diversified and personalized diet, associated with regular physical activity, presented a session on the prevention and the treatment of obesity during its national meeting in June, 2011.

    Therese Libert