The premise was this: Dr. Giles Yeo, who is the Director of Genomics and Transcriptomics (sure) at Cambridge University and a thoroughly likeable chap, delved into the Instagram-friendly world of the so-called "clean eaters".
Fad diet by fad diet, Instagram superstar by Instagram superstar, Dr Giles debunked myth after myth using an oft-overlooked thing called scientific research.
He took a look at the Hemsley sisters' claims about gluten-free eating and about bone broth. Fellow gluten-free advocate Deliciously Ella actually appeared on the show and escaped too much of a dressing-down, despite also once claiming that saying goodbye to gluten will "really help you look and feel your absolute best" and that "plant-based sources of calcium are actually better for us too as they're not acidic at all and so the calcium stays in our bones, rather than being leached into the blood to alkalinise the body" – here's the study debunking that, by the way.
Dr Yeo's real focus, though, was the Alkaline Diet and its creator Robert O. Young, a man currently facing a three-year jail sentence for fraud and practising medicine without a licence! The documentary covered the heartbreaking story of Naima Houder-Mohammed, a captain in the British army who, when she discovered she had breast cancer, looked to Young for help. Her three-month stay at his – where he has housed over 80 terminal patients – cost her family $77,000. While there, her conditioned worsened. She was brought home to England where she died a few weeks later at just 27.
Young, for his part, told the BBC, "I wasn't selling her anything… I didn't force her to come here, it was her decision." He also said that he uses the term "cancerous" as an adjective to describe a "state of acidity".
Robert Young's alkaline diet extols the idea that the body needs a balance between acid and alkaline in order to be at full health. He reckons that we need to eat "alkaline" foods in order to maintain that balance. He told Dr Giles that, "All sickness and disease can be prevented by managing the delicate pH balance of the fluids of the body."
The UK's most famous faces of the Alkaline Diet were the Honestly Healthy women – Natasha Corrett and Vicki Edgson. Their first book sold over 300,000 copies in 15 different languages. Their book Honestly Healthy: Eat With Your Body In Mind, The Alkaline Way claimed that "many of our frequently chosen foods in the Western diet are acid-forming in the body – that is, when digested, they form acidic residues in the bloodstream."
In their third book, The Honestly Healthy Cleanse, they write: "In simple terms, acidity in the body causes 'dis-ease', which later can show itself as everyday discomforts, such as bloating, exhaustion, acne, dry skin and acid reflux, to much more serious illnesses, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and obesity."
They went on to say: "Dr. Robert Young, an American biologist who pioneered alkaline eating, discovered that eating a plant-based diet free from processed foods can help to cure terminal diseases in the body. Unfortunately, his work is not recognised by the medical industry, perhaps because giant pharmaceutical organisations wouldn't be able to make money out of doctors prescribing vegetables."
It is worth noting that the Honestly Healthy website now makes little-to-no mention of the alkaline diet.
Last night, Natasha – who turned down an opportunity to appear on the documentary – posted her thoughts on Instagram, saying she wanted to have a chance to put her view across without it being "edited" or "misinterpreted".
"7 years ago when Vicki and I created Honestly Healthy, Dr Robert Young was one of several practitioners that we looked at to draw inspiration from to create a balanced eating ethos."
"It was his book, The PH Miracle, which we read and from which we drew SOME inspiration which within time amongst other influences, helped us to form our brand...."
"By no means is his [Dr Young's] plan a basis for our brand, nor did we send him the proofs of our first book or were we students of his as he has claimed in the programme."
"He has made several serious health claims of curing cancer through this approach and extreme practices and food choices which I have never agreed with. From day one the recipes that we created have never been restrictive or as extreme as he advocates."
"My philosophy has always been moderation and balance, there are no labels, diets or detoxes, it's about making long-term, positive lifestyle choices to make you feel your best. This means never telling yourself you can't have something."
In light of the Horizon documentary this evening on the BBC I wanted to have a chance to put my view across without it being edited in a way that couldn't be misinterpreted or spun by anyone like before. 'Clean Eating' has always meant to me to be ingredients in their most natural state. Unfortunately the phrase has been commercialised and therefore misrepresented to become a meaning that no one ever set out to create. 7 years ago when Vicki and I created Honestly Healthy, Dr Robert Young was one of several practitioners that we looked at to draw inspiration from to create a balanced eating ethos. It was his book, the PH Miracle, which we read and from which we drew SOME inspiration which within time amongst other influences, helped us to form our brand. What made sense to us was eating more plant based, unprocessed and unrefined foods on a regular basis which could in turn improve your day to day health - it certainly did mine. By no means is his (Dr Young) plan a basis for our brand, nor did we send him the proofs of our first book or were we students of his as he has claimed in this programe. He has made several serious health claims of curing cancer through this approach and extreme practices and food choices which I have never agreed with. From day one the recipes that I created have never been restrictive or as extreme as he advocates. My philosophy has always been moderation and balance, there are no labels, diets or detoxes, it’s about making long-term, positive lifestyle choices to make you feel your best. This means never telling yourself you can’t have something. I haven’t seen the documentary so I shall be watching first hand tonight however I hope that we can draw some positivity from it. The thing that I find scary about this industry is the amount of insufficiently qualified people who can give advice so freely. Its important to me that all of you who have been on this journey with me trust what is written on my platforms that's why I’ve always sort professionals at the top of their fields. I’m a chef with a big passion to inspire people to cook from scratch so they can feel their best. It's a simple as that. X