Does the blood type diet really work?

Milly Stilinovic
Friday, January 21, 2011
After only two weeks my energy levels are high and my skin is completely free of blemishes.
Milly Stilinovic

Milly Stilinovic road-tested the blood type diet, made famous by a cult of celebrity adherents such as Miranda Kerr and Demi Moore, to test its claims.

The offensive red flesh of a tomato stares up at me from my capri salad. "Is there a problem?" the snooty waiter asks.

Yes, there was a problem! Ready to launch into a tirade on tomatoes and their harmful affect on my type-A digestive tract I am stopped short by a withering look from my lunchtime companion. "I ordered the artichoke hearts," I mutter sheepishly.

Eat like your ancestors
The blood type diet is an eating and exercise regime advocated by American naturopathic physician Dr Peter J D'Adamo. The regime advocates the diets of our ancestors, according to their blood types, and suggests we should adhere to their habits for optimum health.

What's your type?

  • Type Os, the oldest blood group, thrive on a carnivorous diet of lean red meats and benefit from rigorous exercise.
  • Type As, the first human cultivators, do well to avoid animal proteins and are at their best on a macrobiotic diet. Due to their naturally high-strung dispositions they benefit from relaxing forms of exercise such as yoga and tai chi.
  • Type Bs had a nomadic lifestyle. Due to this they are the most versatile of all blood groups and should adhere to a balanced diet and moderate group exercise.
  • Type ABs, the rarest and youngest blood type, have benefits and intolerances from both A and B blood groups. They should follow a light exercise regime similar to type As.

Dr D'Adamo's book Eat Right 4 Your Type provides a list of foods for each blood group to follow and further breaks down these food lists into three categories:

  • Beneficial foods are considered medicinal and their consumption is encouraged.
  • Neutral foods are neither medicinal nor harmful and their occasional consumption is not seen as detrimental.
  • Avoids are to be treated as poison and should be abstained from at all costs.

Eat Right 4 Your Type promises to assist in weight loss, fend off common viruses and life-threatening diseases and decelerate the ageing process. It also guarantees a change within two weeks of following the plan.

With guidance from principal naturopath of CBD Natural Health, Rebecca Martin, and spokesman for the Dietitians Association of Australia, Dr Trent Watson, I launch into the two-week challenge.

The grocery store
You may have memorised your "beneficial" list but you will still find yourself scrutinising every ingredient on food packaging and be frustrated when your local store does not stock hard-to-find ingredients.

Dr Watson suggests avoiding creating meals that are both difficult and time consuming. "It's a matter of research and planning. Sit down at the start of the week and plan your meals," he says.

The blood type diet does not categorise every food substance known to man. Dr D'Adamo's website stipulates that something not found on your list should be considered "neutral", which Martin believes to be an ad hoc approach to differentiating beneficial and harmful foods.

Dr Watson also warns not to fall into a pattern of preparing several different meals if your blood type may also not coincide with your family. "There's one family meal and the consumer will determine how much they'll eat," he says.

The restaurant
Another stumbling block on the road to a streamlined physique is eating out. It seems that every dish at a restaurant comes with something that should be avoided.

Dr Watson advises dieters to be realistic. "If you go out on a Friday night, eat whatever you want. You won't get fat if you stick to a realistic 'game plan' on a day-to-day basis," he says. Dr Watson's game plan consists of eating a routine breakfast and packing your lunch box. "You can have 70 percent of your dietary intake done before you leave through the front door," he says.

Although I learnt to tip more generously on account of my finicky ordering I still felt that the diet had begun to run my life.

"You need to allow for a little flexibility in your diet that accounts for drinks with your mates or dinner," Dr Watson says.

Eaten something you shouldn't have? If you have an adverse reaction to consuming any "avoids" rest assured, in the preliminary stages of the diet, it's most likely a placebo effect. "We have huge power over our minds. When we know that something's 'bad' for us that can cause a physical reaction," Martin says.

Did it work?
Strictly speaking from a type A viewpoint, weight loss on this regime is almost a given. I lost 2kg in the first week without much fuss. It's uncertain whether this is from an increase of vegetable-based proteins or from following a restrictive regime. There is no scientific evidence to back the claims of Dr D'Adamo.

"I find his theories really interesting and I'm sure he's done a lot of research, but, with lack of credible evidence to support what he's saying you can't really promote it," Martin says.

The plan does not differentiate between negative and positive blood types nor does it take into account the dietary requirements of those living in different climates.

"[Dr D'Adamo] is suggesting that your blood type is more important than race, culture or geography. We respond to the environment that we put ourselves into," Dr Watson says.

After only two weeks I am, obviously, unable to determine whether the diet has hindered the ageing process or deterred life-threatening illnesses but my energy levels are high and my skin is completely free of blemishes.

So is the blood type diet the right diet type, according to the specialists?

"No. There's 50 to 100,000 genes contained in human DNA and the thought of passing on genes from one generation to the next is like rolling the genetic dice," Dr Watson says.

Martin believes it is a backwards approach to nutrition. "I don't think it's harmful on the short term but it's far too simplistic to stick to it long term," she says.

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