This article is part of our Stupid Diet Series, therefore we do not recommend this diet.
This one actually might have a bit of merit to it. The Shangri La diet, so named because you can eat just about anything you want throughout the day, was invented by Berkeley professor Seth Roberts. His book of the same name became a New York Times bestseller, and the diet was picked up by academics and celebrities alike.
The catch? All you have to do is drink 100-400 calories per day of a flavourless liquid such as extra-light olive oil, half an hour before or after eating or drinking anything else. Roberts claims that this helps to regulate the body’s desire to gain or lose weight, and your appetite will follow accordingly.
The Shangri La diet revolves around the idea of a ‘Set Point’ – this is the body’s ideal weight, or the weight it thinks it should be. Foods that are high in flavour and calories, like fast food, can increase the set point, while others can lower it. The body will naturally create an appetite to keep the body at this set point.
The ingestion of the olive oil or a substitute tricks the body into adjusting the set point downwards, or to the correct point, and the appetite will follow suit.
Unfortunately, a detailed scientific study was carried out in order to verify Roberts’ theory. You guessed it – it’s bunk.
What’s In It
Anything you like, essentially. The olive oil or glucose-liquid must be consumed during a ‘flavourless window’ – meaning half an hour before or after anything with a flavour has been consumed. Aside from this you can eat whatever you like, but the idea is that the body will set a calorie target and an appetite to match this target after a few days.
The idea has been ridiculed and celebrated, but eventually ridiculed a whole lot more. It turns out this has little to no effect on your metabolism or your ability to lose weight.
Who’s On It
Surprisingly enough, Stephen J. Dubner of the Freakonomics phenomenon was hooked into this diet enough to give the book a puff. Other celebrities soon followed, and the diet still enjoys reasonable popularity.
In an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s program Sunday Night, nutritionist David Jenkins criticized the entire diet and book package. The study to disprove it had just been made public, but Jenkins was quoted as saying, “there was no need for a big study to demonstrate the obvious.”
However, he did qualify it by saying that the diet was benign, and couldn’t hurt.
Why You Might Want to Avoid It
Unless you have any major objections to snake oil salesmen making big money, there’s no real reason not to give this one a try. If you’re totally convinced by Roberts’ reasoning and you notice a change in diet after a few spoons of olive oil, then go for it!
The only negative effects that are possible from this are totally eating yourself into a coma until your corpse has to be airlifted out of your bed and buried in a piano case. If it doesn’t work, and you carry on eating whatever you like, it’s a possibility.
Other than that, drinking some olive oil might increase your body’s HDL levels and boost your metabolism, helping you to lose weight (with a healthy diet and exercise) and lowering your cholesterol levels and chances of cardiovascular diseases.
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