Headed up by Dr Sandra Cabot, well known for the best-selling book The Liver Cleansing Diet, these clinics are in several locations around Australia. A number of naturopaths, doctors and herbalists have been trained by Dr Cabot and claim to take a holistic approach to weight control.
All three shoppers attended a paid hour-long consultation at the Sydney clinic with a naturopath/weight loss consultant. While all three were asked extensive questions about their health and wellbeing, none were weighed or measured despite the consultation being focussed on weight control.
Emma was asked her weight and told by the consultant that while she didn’t need to lose weight, she could follow a healthy eating plan. She was advised to avoid all grains and most fruit and to take protein supplements.
Andrew was advised to lose weight. He was told:
- To cut out grains completely
- Eat five small meals a day
- Drink coconut milk for energy
- Despite not being diagnosed with any specific health issues, the consultant was keen to sell him thyroid and liver supplements.
Andrew says he was given a diet program that didn’t include any portion guidance. “I was told to eat nuts, but what if I eat 10 kilos worth?” he asks.
Katherine was given dietary advice such as avoiding dairy and eating more protein, but no portions were suggested. The consultant told her that as a vegetarian she’d find it difficult to lose weight, and suggested eating kangaroo. Additionally, she diagnosed Katherine with hormonal, thyroid and adrenal problems and suggested these were contributing to weight gain. The consultant was also keen to sell Katherine more than $100 worth of supplements.
After the consultation, Katherine visited a GP who ran extensive blood tests that found none of the conditions diagnosed are present.
The experts’ opinions
Overall, our experts were alarmed by the dietary and health advice given to our shoppers. “This is factually incorrect, poor clinical assessments and misleading diagnoses have been made,” says Hay. “This advice borders on being irresponsible, misleading, and negligent.”
“It’s no wonder there is so much confusion about what a healthy diet is when there are people providing dietary advice that is not evidence-based and can compromise people’s health,” adds McGrice.
Barclay says the kind of dietary changes suggested to our shoppers is not only inappropriate but also unsustainable. Avoidance of wheat (and other gluten containing grains) and dairy is typical advice from naturopaths.
This kind of dietary pattern is rarely socially or culturally appropriate and will not be sustainable in the long term, leading to rebound weight gain and potential yo-yo dieting. The sale of proprietary supplements to make up for inherent nutrient deficiencies (due to the poor overall diet quality) is a common scam – an easy way to extract more money from vulnerable and unwary customers.
* Note: While all three shadow shoppers saw someone listed as a Weightloss Consultant (on weightcontroldoctor.com.au) at the Dr Cabot Holistic Hormone Centre not a Dr Cabot Weight Loss Clinic. All three shoppers called and asked to be referred to someone to discuss weight loss strategies.