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Inexcess Dilution

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008 Inexcess Dilution

A company behind a meal replacement diet has defended their programme after it emerged that a woman died after drinking four litres of water in under two hours. Jacqueline Henson, 40, from Huddersfield, wanted to slim down from 14st (89kg) when she started the meal replacement diet plan LighterLife.

Huddersfield Coroner’s Court was told she died from a cerebral oedema- brain swelling. LighterLife said the death of Jacqueline Henson, 40 a mother of five children, was a tragic accident and stressed she had been given proper advice on how much water to consume.

A verdict of accidental death was recorded and the coroner Roger Whittaker said LighterLife had given clear guidance on how much water should be consumed. He said no-one should drink water in the quantities involved over such a short period. However back in April of this year and much scepticism the same diet company was reported to have misled their clients. The issue of the economic mindset yet again rears it’s ugly head. With an annual turnover of £18m, diet company LighterLife claims to have enabled 60,000 people to lose three stones in three months.

The LighterLife diet plan is aimed at people who are three or more stones overweight and involves consuming 500 calories a day for 12 weeks by replacing meals with shakes, soups and bars, as well as drinking water. But Inside Out in the East has heard from some dieters who have experienced disrupted periods, hair loss and water poisoning. Lizzie Whitehead from Norfolk informed her LighterLife counsellor that she was giving up the diet. Ms Whitehead said: “I explained to her that it was due to how the diet had messed up my menstrual cycle and caused me to feel so ill. “She basically said ‘well that’s just one of the side effects, feeling ill. You’ve just got to carry on, you’ll get past it’. She added, “No-one warned me about any side effects at all. She just said to drink plenty of water. No health warnings were given to me at all.”

Another example was that of Sarah Morley, she states “When I came off LighterLife, within about two weeks my hair was falling out in clumps… Nobody had warned me. “When I mentioned it to my counsellor she said ‘isn’t the fact that you’ve lost weight enough? Surely a bit of hair loss is ok?’”

When BBC undercover researchers asked two separate LighterLife counsellors, picked at random, what side effects might be experienced they were told the worst they could expect was a headache. Furthermore, Inside Out asked Bar Hewlett, a founder and director of LighterLife, to explain why the counsellors did not warn about side effects such as hair loss and interrupted periods. She said: “If a counsellor is asked about the side effects of weight loss there would be a different answer than if they were asked about the side effects of a very low calorie diet.” She added that these things are made clear in LighterLife literature.

In contrast Mrs Henson’s husband Brian told BBC News that she was delighted when she lost 11.5lbs (5.2kg) during the first week of her diet. He said: “It had been going brilliant, she loved it because she was losing weight. She was over the moon.” The inquest heard on November 14 last year Mrs Henson had two big bottles of water and began drinking it out of a pint glass while watching television. She complained that her stomach was solid and was later sick. She said she had a headache and went upstairs to the toilet where she collapsed. Paramedics attempted to revive her but she died the following day. Mr Henson said he now wanted to warn others of the danger of drinking too much water.

He said: “I had no idea that much water could kill someone. If I’d have known that I would not have let her drink it.”

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