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A look at systems, with expert’s analysis
By Ruby Gao

 MANY people, impatient with slow effect on weight loss from regular exercise and healthy eating, turn to short-term but controversial diets.

Some sound attractive, encouraging people to keep fit through eating and drinking; others are strange, even scary, and are criticized by doctors as having potential problems. Yet they remain popular.

As American filmmaker Quentin Tarantino said in his famous film “True Romance,” “Live fast, die young and leave a good-looking corpse.”

Here we highlight some of the interesting attempts, with each commented on by Liu Junqing, a certified senior nutritionist and founder of YOUFUUD health management center in Shanghai.

Cotton ball diet

It’s a diet popular among American models. They eat nothing but cotton balls soaked in fresh juice and smoothies. Adherents believe that cotton balls will make them feel full while taking in zero calories. Cotton balls made from cellulose fiber (humans lack the enzyme to break down) will dissolve harmlessly in the body.

But such a diet is widely criticized as risky, even stupid. It may lead to choking and malnutrition, and most of the cotton balls sold on the market are actually synthetic fibers.

“Your clothing is also made of polyester, so swallowing a synthetic cotton ball is like dipping your T-shirt in orange juice and eating it,” said Brandi Koskie, managing editor of Diets in Review, in an interview with ABC News.

Expert’s view:

It’s terrible. Even food may trigger exaggerated immune response, needless to say cotton. Cotton could easily get stuck in the body, triggering serious inflammation.

Why don’t you replace cotton with soluble fiber such as rice bran and wheat bran, which can also make you full, promote gastrointestinal motility yet with little calorie? I personally recommend replacing the cotton with psyllium husk, a soluble fiber from India, which expands in water to make you feel full easily.

Tapeworm diet

This therapy seems radical and disgusting. People swallow a capsule containing a sanitized tapeworm, which will be attached to the stomach, consuming the food they eat and trimming down the calories in body.

People’s digestion system will be disrupted when infected by a tapeworm, sometimes resulting in serious appendicitis, according to the National Institute of Parasitic Diseases Chinese Center.

Expert’s view:

Although it’s strange, it works. The tapeworm can grow up to 30 meters long in your body to consume the food you eat. But after successfully losing your weight, you need to kill parasites in your body together with a restricted diet, or weight will be regained.


The idea originated from Japan is designed to get rid of belly fat. After relaxing the neck and shoulder muscles, whistle for 10 minutes, longer if possible.

During whistling the belly fat is tensed, gradually turning into muscle. Such exercise also stimulates peristalsis of the stomach to help detoxify.

Expert’s view:

Whistling can be considered as an exercise but the calories it burns are so few it’s negligible. Besides, it just tenses the muscle and doesn’t reduce the fat, which cannot help you to be slim. If you have time to whistle, why not do aerobic exercise and control your diet?


People lose weight when fine needles are inserted into the skin at several acupuncture points. Such therapy originated in China based on the TCM theory that weight gain is the result of disturbed energy flow in the body.

Acupuncture, with the effect of restoring and balancing the energy flow, can help boost metabolism, improve digestion, regulate hormones and inhibit appetite. But choosing a qualified practitioner is important, lest needles inserted at the wrong point lead to problems that could be serious.

Expert’s view:

Some practitioners claim that acupuncture can help to lose 5 kilograms within one week. But I seriously doubt whether the 5kg weight is water or fat since we can burn at most 250g of fat every day.

Some practitioners will ask people to control their diet during the treatment, especially controlling the water intake. But water is important for keeping ourselves healthy.

Coffee diet

Drinking coffee keeps you fit, a concept exemplified by many heavy coffee drinkers with slim figures. Coffee diet is based on the principle that caffeine accelerates burning and breaking down fat.

Drinking a cup of coffee before bathing, combining the diet with exercise are said promote burning fat. But the diet only works if you drink black coffee, without pairing any biscuits and dessert.

Expert’s view:

Caffeine doesn’t help with losing weight in a real sense. It acts as a diuretic, making you dehydrated, which seems like weight loss. Actually it doesn’t burn fat. Coffee bean is said to help in losing weight because it’s rich in green extract. But most of the green extract is lost during the roasting process. There are some health-care products made from that green extract.

Wine and cheese diet

The diet originated in Taiwan requires people to eat nothing but cheese and red wine, which is inspired by many French ladies, who drink wine and eat plenty of high-calorie cheese yet still keep slim.

Researchers found that calcium in cheese can prevent bodies from storing fat. Cheese high in protein also keeps people satisfied, helping them avoid other snacks.

When people consume wine, the body produces particular enzymes to digest the alcohol, which helps burning calories.

Expert’s view:

I don’t think the diet works. Contrarily, it gains weight and brings some side effects. There’s a common misunderstanding that alcohol in wine speeds up metabolism but it actually promotes blood circulation. Alcohol contains high calories, up to 7 kilocalories per gram, more than carbohydrates. That diet, with a lack of trace elements, also leads to malnutrition.

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