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Not over until the fat lady shrinks

Anne Boylan reports on the latest diet craze, based on analysing a blood sample to tell you what you can and cannot eat.The new Nutron Diet became even more controversial at the weekend when it emerged that a reporter who had sent in two samples of her blood was given two different diet sheets.

The new diet craze is now attracting 1,200 new dieters in this country every week at a cost of £230 a head.

But in spite of the controversy, the creator of the diet is standing by the diet regime and says it cannot be judged on blood test results alone.

The Nutron diet is the latest supposedly infallible method of losing weight. There are dozens of different theories about the best way to get in shape. But the flavour of the month is the NuTron Protocol. According to Catherine Duffy, franchise holder of the NuTron diet in this country: ``Overweight is an inflammatory illness, caused by foods that antagonise the immune system.

``Individuals are affected by different foods but, thanks to our blood test, these foods can be easily identified.''

Among the Irish politicians and showbiz stars who have been shed the pounds with the new diet are: Daniel O'Donnell, Charlie McCreevy, Brian Cowan and Mary O'Rourke.

Catherine says that by avoiding the offending items, most people will loose weight dramatically.

We asked two Dublin women, both in their early fifties, to test the NuTron Protocol over an eight-month period, and the following is an account of how they fared.

Niamh Sheridan. Height, 5ft 4in.(1.6m). Weight before NuTron, 18st 7lbs. (117.5kg). Secretarial Assistant, Information Office, RTE: Her first visit to the NuTron clinic was on April 11, 1997, where Nurse Deirdre Doherty took a blood sample from Niamh's arm. The blood was then sent to the company's headquarters in Surrey, where it was analysed against nearly 100 different food ingredients.

``About a week later I made a second appointment when my test results were back,'' said Niamh. ``During a 45 minute consultation, therapist Shauna Weir introduced me to a `green' list of foodstuffs which were safe for me to eat, and a second list in `red' which signified my banned foods.''

On average, people taking a NuTron test are antagonistic to between 10 and 20 foods. Niamh found she reacted to 27. ``When I first saw the list of foods I had to avoid I remember thinking that I had drawn a fairly unlucky hand. First to go was baker's yeast, which included everything from the bakery (bread, biscuits, cakes, pizza base, pitta bread and croissants etc.)

``Also on my banned list was cow's milk, butter, cheese, yogurts and fruit juices, as well as brewer's yeast which meant goodbye to wine, lager, beers, Marmite, stockcubes, Oxo, Bisto and packet soups.''

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However, Niamh said she soon took on a more up-beat mood when Shauna suggested she concentrate her attention on her green list, and together they set about looking at ways of working within it. Immediately, Niamh was able to reduce the number of foods on her banned list to 21, as there were six items she never liked to eat anyway.

``I began to feel thankful for small mercies when I discovered that I had not tested antagonistically to tea, coffee, potatoes and wheat. I could also choose from a large selection of vegetables, fruit, nuts, meat, fish and salads.

``There are three golden rules attached to the NuTron diet: one, I must take at least five stir-fries per week. Two, eat three oranges daily, and, three, drink two litres of water every day. Before I left the clinic I was already substituting cow's milk with soya milk, replacing my corn flakes with porridge and was very excited about making my own `special recipe' bread. In all, I felt highly motivated''.

Paradoxically,the first hint that the diet is working may take the form of feeling distinctly unwell. The symptoms, which may include a dull headache, aching limbs, blocked nose or even backache, are entirely natural and are classic withdrawal symptoms. They can start as little as a few hours after stopping foods, but will rarely last more than a week.

Because our `model' had not experienced any such side affects (remember, she was still allowed to drink tea and coffee), Niamh thought the plan was not working. Not so, they assured her at the clinic. She was just very fortunate.

``At the end of the first week on the diet I had lost nearly 9lbs, and after one month my weight had dropped by a total of 1st 4lbs. It was suggested at the clinic that I check in once a week to be weighed, and the visit always included a pep talk.

``For the first three months I visited the clinic three times a week (later one visit per week), as I decided to take a course on the transion machine in order to speed up the process. After all, my goal was to lose six stone before Christmas and I needed all the help I could get.''

This proved to be an ideal course for Niamh to take as her weight problem did not allow her much scope for lengthy or organised exercise. Breakfast was usually the juice of three freshly-squeezed oranges, porridge with soya milk and a generous mug of black coffee.

Three months down the road and our model registered 15st 10lbs on the scales.

When Niamh Sheridan married 27 years ago she weighed 9st, but had increasing difficulty getting her weight down after the birth of each of her four children. She had tried several diets over the years with little success. As it had been ten years since she weighed 16st, Niamh was very surprised that, after eight months on the NuTron (late December) her weight had dropped to 13st 7lbs.

``By now the NuTron had become so much a part of my routine, and I never deviated from it once that is, until Christmas. With several party invitations and family gatherings, the willpower went by the board and I put back on 3lbs.''

However, one week later Niamh buckled down and recovered the lost ground, with a further loss of 2lbs. January 5, 1998, and Niamh Sheridan is a new woman. She weighs 13st 5lbs, (84.8kg) a total loss of 5st 2lbs, has come down from a size 24 dress size to a comfortable 16, and has lost several inches from her thighs, hips, tummy, arms and legs, as well as her face and neck.

Joy Stone. Height: 5ft 4ins (1.6m). Weight before NuTron: 19st 2lbs (121.6kg). Chiropodist. ``I am familiar with every diet known to man,'' said Joy, who cannot remember a time when she was not on a diet, thinking of going on a diet or, indeed, giving up on one.

Her reaction on reading her banned list was one of disbelief and panic, especially since her favourite foods turned up in abundance. These included cheese, tomatoes, mushrooms, baker's yeast and chocolate. The fact that milk, butter and cream were allowed was little consolation to Joy as tea and coffee had also been eliminated. In all, she reacted to 28 foods.

Although she did not adjust to the changes in her diet as quickly as Niamh, and her metabolic activity was somewhat slower, Joy managed to lose 6lbs in seven days, which translated into 1st 4lbs after eight weeks. ``I know I am sounding very negative, but I did find it hard to come to terms with the fact that I did not experience a big drop in weight over the first few weeks. The staff at the clinic assured me that long-term it was much better to shed the pounds gradually.''

At first Joy found it very rough being off tea and coffee. She had often felt anti-social, awkward and bored when dining out with friends, as she was forced to sip hot milk or water. She also found that the lack of flavour in her food was hard to live with. ``I am totally depending on black pepper, madly grinding in into everything.''

In spite of her confessed self-pitying mood, and constantly dreaming of Bewley's coffee and large cream doughnuts, our model registered a respectable 15st 8lbs after six months. ``By now, compliments from clients were coming in great style and I decided to buy three new outfits, each a good two sizes smaller than what I had been used to wearing (26 to size 22).''

Like Niamh, Joy checked in at the clinic three times weekly for the first three months (later one visit a week) and took courses on the transion exercise machine as well as having some lymphatic drainage treatments.

Breakfast for Joy was usually a large glass of water, one home-made brown scone with almonds and walnuts, one banana and an orange. Her favourite midday snack was a bowl of vegetable soup (home-made), another scone, some tuna and a glass of milk.

And the final meal of the day (around 7pm) would consist of a large-stir fry, with a minimum of five vegetables, a generous helping of chicken, lamb or turkey, boiled potatoes and two glasses of water.

On January 5 she had shed a total of 4st 1lb registering 15st 1lb. (95.7kg) ``I will continue the NuTron until my daughter's wedding in August when I hope to be 14st.''

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