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Can jelly beans really make you thin?

Forget the New Year detox. The latest diet fad embraced by Cheryl Cole et al involves eating nothing but sweets, Celia Walden reports.

We’ve heard of the Cabbage Soup diet, the Maple Syrup and Cayenne Pepper fast, and the Blue Food diet. Now the Sweetie Diet is in town. Given that 86pc of women who diet – and one in three of us has done so in the past 12 months – fail to lose any long-term weight, according to a report last week, the villainous pick ’n' mix suddenly looks like our new best friend.

Imported from the US and favoured by celebrities such as Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and Whitney Port, the Sweetie Diet involves shunning regular meals for a regimen of Jelly Bellies (a 35-bean serving has just 80 calories), Haribo Starmix (just 14 calories a serving) and sugar-free liquorice (100 calories a serving) instead. It’s cute, minimalist, and it’s catching on over here.

“Models and celebrities have been doing this for years,” says one fashion insider. “There are always bowls of sweets on photoshoots and, because they’re not messy to eat and don’t bloat you out, the girls like to munch on them to keep their energy up.” Inside Condé Nast’s illustrious Manhattan offices, the real-life Devil Wears Prada girls can often be seen sucking lollipops or Atomic Fireballs, known as “a great one-and-done candy, because they only have 35 calories each, and you can stretch them out over half an hour.”

Back in the UK, TV stars like Cheryl Cole and Amanda Holden are said to keep a plentiful supply of Flying Saucers and Percy Pigs in their dressing rooms, while shops like Topshop and Mango like to lay out packs of Jelly Babies, Sherbet Dib Dabs and Cola bottles enticingly by the counter.

“It’s obvious why this diet would appeal to young girls,” says nutritional consultant Ian Marber, otherwise known as the Food Doctor. “On a social level, it’s fine to pop the odd sweetie, whereas health foods and vegetable shakes tend to be messy and ugly to look at.”

There’s also a ''Lolita psychosis’’ at play, says hypnotherapist and counsellor Suzanne Thomas, based on the desire to regress to a sheltered, childhood state. “When people have a difficult relationship with food, they often want to eat the things that were treats when they were little. People invest an incredible amount of hope in a bar of chocolate or a sweetie. Sweets have the advantage of being brightly coloured, pretty and naughty at the same time. On top of all that, they take a long time to eat. Assuming you’re not thinking about what this diet will do to your body, it’s easy to understand the appeal.”

Nutritionally, of course, the Sweetie Diet has zero benefits. “While sweets are often fat-free,” says Marber, “they’re also pure sugar, so you may get a hit of energy at first but that’ll be followed by peaks and troughs which, in turn, could cause mood swings, headaches and irritability.”

The diet will probably work short-term, says Third Space nutritionist Carole Symons, “but only because the calorie intake has been reduced. And there will be a price to pay: rebound weight gain once the metabolism has been lowered – a problem associated with all crash diets.

“But in the case of the Sweetie Diet there is a bigger price to pay. The sugars in sweets are essentially anti-nutrients, meaning they rob our body of vital nutrients as we digest them – so deficiencies will develop. More importantly, blood-sugar problems may escalate, increasing one’s risk of becoming diabetic.” Needless to say, the superficial side effects to both teeth and skin aren’t good either. “Acne is intricately linked to poor blood sugar control,” explains Symons, “so if you were to go on a crash diet, you’d do far better to go on 'the vegetable diet’ for a few days.”

This particular weight-loss plan, however, is threatening to become more than a quick fix for British teens desperate to squeeze into that LBD in the new year. “I have come across a lot of diets in my time,” says Symons, “but the Sweetie Diet must be the craziest of them all.”

© Telegraph.co.uk