How Did Dieters Fare on the 'Detox Diet'?

ByABC News via logo

— -- Diane Amidon, a nurse from upstate New York, shrunk from 218 pounds to 130 by faithfully following the Fat Flush Plan, one of the big crazes of 2003 created by diet guru Ann Louise Gittleman.

"I started with a size 22 to 24, and now I'm between a size 6 and an 8. And I never thought I would tell on public television my size," Amidon said.

Her husband, Doug, wanted to shed some pounds too. Trouble is, he lacked his wife's discipline.

"We were going in different directions. I was getting bigger, she was getting smaller," he said. 

But now Gittleman has a brand new diet that even Doug Amidon could stick to.  It's called the Fast Track One-Day Detox Diet. For Amidon, it's the way to jumpstart weight loss. And see results fast. "I lost 13 pounds in the first 11 days, which was a real good feeling," he said.

Gittleman says her "One-Day Detox Diet" is a new twist on crash diets.

"This was my opportunity to use a crash diet, but turn it around as a healthy crash diet," she said.

Is there such a thing as a healthy crash diet?

Gittleman says she thinks so. "Because what we've seen with individuals that are going on the program," she said, "is that they start to incorporate some very interesting and new techniques into their lives."

Those techniques include eating lots of fruits and leafy vegetables, and sprinkling it all with flaxseed and powdered psyllium husks commonly found in laxatives. It also calls for drinking what Gittleman calls "miracle juice" -- a concoction of unsweetened cranberry juice, orange and lemon juice, all flavored with cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.

Yale Medical School's Dr. David Katz, an expert on nutrition, says Gittleman ignores the obvious: We're overweight because we eat too much and exercise too little. "You know it's not about cutting carbs and it's not about drinking miracle juice," he said. "It is about a healthful diet, and we have science to back that up. But that isn't sexy."

What is sexy? The lure of losing weight fast and easy.

"20/20" found four volunteers -- all New York Daily News employees -- who agreed to put Gittleman's One-Day Detox Diet to the test.

The News' editor in chief, Michael Cooke, agreed to give the diet a shot saying, "I once had a Canadian lumberjack physique and I want it back."

Cooke blamed his recent eight-pound weight gain on his move to New York and all its great cuisine.

Rookie reporter Veronika Belenkaya, who works the overnight shift, admitted to a love affair with the M&M dispenser. She wanted to lose 15 pounds.  

The other volunteers are two buddies who work in ad sales, Kevin O'Brien and Joe Stella, who have found that wining and dining clients doesn't help the waistline.  

At 312 pounds, O'Brien is a veteran dieter. He lost 40 pounds on a Weight Watchers program but gained 20 back. He was looking for a quick fix to get back on track.  

It doesn't take long before the team hit its first snag. The diet isn't as simple as it sounds.

What's so confusing about a one-day diet? For starters, the diet actually takes 11 days. It kicks off with a week of eating a low-carb diet of fruits, vegetables, proteins and fats. The one-day part comes on Day 8 of the diet -- a 24-hour "miracle juice" fast. This is followed by three more days of dieting.

Katz is skeptical about the plan. "This is very gimmicky and I think there is a lot of pseudo-science in the book. I think it preys on people's desperation," he said.

The "20/20" dieters weren't exactly desperate -- but they became a little cranky when they had to give up coffee and other daily necessities. The diet calls for no caffeine, no dairy, no wheat, no sugar, no alcohol.

But the dieters hung in there.

Finally, Day 8 arrived and it was time for the one-day fast Gittleman claims will flush out up to eight pounds of fattening toxins. Our dieters sipped miracle juice every other hour.

"The reality is so many of us are walking around as toxic time bombs," Gittleman said.

Toxic time bombs? Could this be? Well, no. Actually it's junk science, according to the country's leading nutrition experts. They all slammed Gittleman on the notion that toxins make you fat.

"This is ridiculous," said Dr. Robert Kushner of Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine.

"There's no scientific evidence for this at all," said Dr. Donald Hensrud of the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine.

"How did a crackpot like this get through to you?" asked Yale's Dr. Harlan Krumholz.

 "I think it reeks of charlatanism," said Katz.

But their comments don't weigh heavy on our team. Twenty-four hours after the fast. It's time for the big weigh-in.

The outcome?

Cooke lost 3 pounds

Belenkaya lost 2 pounds

Stella dropped 8 pounds

And O'Brien shed 13 pounds.

But the book boasts you can lose 3 to 8 pounds in one day."That is absolutely ridiculous unless you want to lose 8 pounds of water, which by the way, you better gain back in a big hurry or welcome to the world of kidney stones," Katz said.

And what about the book's other claims?

Will the diet "detoxify" you?

"The body does not require a fast to detoxify itself," Katz said.

As far as boosting metabolism, Katz said, "the only thing that does that reliably is physical activity."

But Gittleman was unfazed by the criticisms. "I believe we really need a different way of looking at weight loss and the concept of a one-day fast, of a one-day diet, is not that strange. And it may in fact really inspire people to make lifestyle changes that will keep them on the healthiest track to eating," she said.

As for our team, it's unclear whether the diet will lead them toward a life of healthier nutrition. Belenkaya hated what she called an unrealistic diet. Cooke couldn't even finish the fast. Stella hung in there, complaining all the way. But only O'Brien says he learned something that might have a lasting impact.

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