By Shayna Robinson, MSPT, PhD
CHICAGO–January is ripe with people trying to sell you something new; how to lose weight in 7 days by standing on your head and eating some obscure fruit one can only attain by trekking through the rain forest in some remote location. Most of these “new” diets have some sort of scientific-sounding “hook” or “secret” that is oftentimes just a re-branding or new packaging of older ideas. Enter The Virgin Diet.
J.J. Virgin–before you make a joke– is a health and fitness expert, and according to her website, “is a Certified Nutrition Specialist, a Certified Health and Fitness Instructor with advanced certifications in Nutrition, Personal Training and Aging and Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition.” She has been a diet and fitness adviser to a number of celebrities including Gene Simmons, Ben Stiller, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Tracie Thoms, Janeane Garofalo, and Brandon Routh.
The Virgin Diet claims that the weight gain is about inflammation; namely that certain foods interact with our system, stressing it to a point of hormonal release and fat storage. It claims eliminating certain foods, from 7 different groups, will alleviate these symptoms.
About a third of the general population believes that they have food allergies. Research shows that only about 5% actually do. Part of the problem is the confusion about the term food allergy, which is different from a food intolerance or food sensitivity:
- A food allergy is a very specific immune response to a particular food protein. The immune system responds to exposure of that protein by producing an immunoglobulin called IgE. The body responds by releasing histamine which (depending on the severity of the response) causes itching, hives, difficulty breathing, wheeziness and possibly prophylaxis.
- A food intolerance is when a specific enzyme necessary to digest a food is absent. This is the case with lactose intolerance or gluten intolerance (gluten-sensitive enteropathy). Symptoms can include GI upset, diarrhea or constipation, rash or nasal congestion. They are usually not life-threatening.
- A food sensitivity is an unpleasant reaction to certain foods, such as getting heartburn, cramps or nausea after eating a particular food. You do not always get the same symptoms when the food is eaten.
It’s no surprise that the 7 foods that Virgin eliminates also happen to be those which are most likely to cause food allergies (peanuts, eggs) or intolerances (soy, dairy, gluten, corn, sugar). If you have a problem with a particular food, eliminating it from your diet will certainly help with the symptoms (like diarrhea or rashes) it is causing.