|Born||28 September 1959|
Gillian McKeith (born 28 September 1959) is a Scottish television personality and writer. She is known for her promotion of various pseudoscientific ideas about health and nutrition. She is the former host of Channel 4's You Are What You Eat (2004–2007), Granada Television's Dr Gillian McKeith's Feel Fab Forever (2009–2010), and W Network's Eat Yourself Sexy (2010). In 2008, McKeith regularly appeared on the E4 health show Supersize vs Superskinny, and in 2010, she was a contestant on the tenth series of the ITV show I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!
Numerous dieting and lifestyle plans supported by McKeith, such as the concept of the detox diet and the value of colonic irrigation, are pseudoscience not supported by scientific research, as are her claims that through examining people's tongues and stool samples she can identify their ailments and dietary needs. McKeith possesses no qualifications in nutrition or medicine from accredited institutions, and in 2007 agreed with the Advertising Standards Authority to stop using the title "Doctor".
McKeith has written several books about nutrition, including You Are What You Eat (2004), which sold over two million copies, and Dr Gillian McKeith's Ultimate Health Plan (2006). However, the validity of her approach and the safety of her recommendations have been strongly criticised by health professionals. She faced criticism during the COVID-19 pandemic for promoting COVID-19 misinformation and anti-vaccine views, and was described as a conspiracy theorist.
Early life and education
McKeith was born in Perth, Scotland, and grew up on a council estate. Her father, Robert, was a shipyard worker and her mother an office worker. She has said that she was raised eating the junk food she now advises against: "We all know the kind of food I grew up with—a typical Scottish diet. We'd have meat three times a day. I certainly never ate a mango, and had no idea what macrobiotic meant." Her father was a long-term smoker and died of cancer of the oesophagus in 2005.
She obtained a degree in linguistics from the University of Edinburgh in 1981, before moving to the United States, where she worked in marketing and international business. In 1984, she received an MA in international relations from the University of Pennsylvania. She claims to have received an MA in holistic nutrition in 1994 and a PhD in that same field in 1997, both via distance-learning programmes from the non-accredited American Holistic College of Nutrition, later the Clayton College of Natural Health in Birmingham, Alabama, since closed. She is a member of the American Association of Nutritional Consultants, but this association runs no checks on the qualifications of its members; this allowed British physician Ben Goldacre to register his dead cat for the same membership held by McKeith. Her website lists post-graduate membership of The Centre for Nutrition Education; certificates from the London School of Acupuncture and the Kailash Centre of Oriental Medicine; and a Master Herbalist Diploma (Honors) from The American College of Healthcare Sciences.
In February 2007, she agreed to stop using the academic title "Doctor" in advertisements, after a complaint to the UK's Advertising Standards Authority. Responding to criticism that her use of her qualifications in linguistics and language and international relations, subjects entirely unrelated to diet and nutrition, are misleading to the public, McKeith said she was challenging orthodox medical opinions. She rejected the claim that using the title to promote her theories on nutrition was unethical.
McKeith and her husband have alleged defamation but failed to initiate threatened legal action against critics. Ben Goldacre speculated that parts of her PhD thesis may have been published as a 48-page pamphlet entitled "Miracle Superfood: Wild Blue-Green Algae"; he called the pamphlet cargo cult science, describing it as full of "anecdote, but no data." In his book Bad Science (2008) Goldacre dedicates a chapter to an analysis of her scientific credibility. In July 2010, on Twitter, McKeith described Goldacre's book as "lies"; Goldacre requested a correction.
According to her Channel 4 biography, she was celebrity health reporter for the Joan Rivers show, and when she first moved to the United States she co-presented a syndicated radio show called Healthline Across America.
You Are What You Eat
Her book You Are What You Eat had sold over two million copies by 2006, and was the most borrowed non-fiction library book in the UK between July 2005 and June 2006. The book derived from the Channel 4 show she presented, You Are What You Eat, broadcast until 2007, in which she attempted to motivate people to lose weight and change their lifestyle. Ian Marber, a nutritionist, described her in 2006 as fervent in her beliefs and thinks of her as a sort of health televangelist. In each episode of the fourth series, called Gillian Moves In: You Are What You Eat, two people were chosen to stay with McKeith at a house in London "with no escape". She first showed each of the subjects their typical week's food consumption. The food was laid out on a table in a cold, congealed and unpleasant state. The subjects were often shown emptying the display into refuse sacks. According to Jan Moir in The Daily Telegraph, she was seen "shouting at sobbing, fat women while forcing them to eat quinoa and undergo frequent sessions of colonic irrigation enthusiastically administered by her good self." She then offered advice on diet and exercise, and forbade alcohol. Once trained, the participants were able to return home, and were expected to stick to their new regime for eight weeks. If they failed to stick to it, McKeith moved in with them to make sure they followed her advice. The participants were shown at the end of the eight weeks to have lost body mass, and said they felt healthier.
She often attributes some of the featured clients' health problems to a vitamin or mineral deficiency. There are certain foods she considers to be particularly nutritious, and these are often mentioned in her programmes. These can be unusual foods, some of which are available only from health food shops or from McKeith's own range of products. A spokesperson for Celador, the television production company responsible for McKeith's series, said that the criticism of her is reflective of her rejection of traditionalist approaches to nutrition: "You have to realise that when someone takes a holistic approach, there is always going to be an old school of traditionalists who are going to be sceptical and besmirch that. That's what's going on."
In her book You Are What You Eat, McKeith advocates examination of the tongue, the mapping of pimples, and detailed scrutiny of faecal matter and urine as indicators of health. She asserts that many exterior parts of the body provide insight into illness: "I always think of the tongue as being like a window to the organs. The extreme tip correlates to the heart, the bit slightly behind is the lungs. The right side shows what the gallbladder is up to and the left side the liver. The middle indicates the condition of your stomach and spleen, the back the kidneys, intestines and womb." These claims have no scientific basis.
She assesses people's nutritional needs based on the appearance of their nails, hair, lips, and skin. She also attributes the presence of depression or PMS to mineral deficiencies, and maintains that the location of pimples can suggest the source of health problems. McKeith also argues that the appearance, smell and consistency of faeces can give clues to bodily malfunction. She frequently engages in this activity during her television shows, a technique that led Ben Goldacre, a physician who wrote for The Guardian at the time, to dub her "the awful poo lady".
McKeith's advice is primarily alternative medicine without any scientific basis. She recommends a detox diet in which the "top 12 toxic terrors to avoid" are: smoking; caffeine; alcohol; chocolate and sweet snacks; pub snacks such as crisps, nuts, and pork scratchings; processed meat; white bread, white pasta, white rice; products containing added sugar; takeaways and ready meals; table salt; saturated fats; and fizzy drinks. McKeith advocates a pescetarian—sea foods—diet high in fruits and vegetables, grains, beans, nuts, and tofu, and the avoidance of processed and high-calorie foods, sugar and fat, red meat, alcohol, caffeine, white flour, and additives.
Goldacre writes that he finds it offensive that the British media is "filled with people who adopt a cloak of scientific authority while apparently misunderstanding the most basic aspects of biology." He offers as an example McKeith's recommendation to eat darker leaves because they are rich in chlorophyll, writing that her claim that it will "really oxygenate your blood" is erroneous as sunlight usually is absent inside the human bowel. McKeith's advice in her book Miracle Superfood: Wild Blue-Green Algae is also disputed. Jan Krokowski of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency wrote a letter to New Scientist, as a private individual, saying "blue-green algae—properly called cyanobacteria—are able to produce a range of very powerful toxins, which pose health hazards to humans and animals and can result in illness and death." In response to the criticism, McKeith argues: "I am on a crusade to change the nation and fortunately, or unfortunately, that is going to put me in the limelight. But you cannot have change without a bit of resistance."
McKeith's website sells books, advice, club membership, food (e.g. Goji berries, hemp seeds, "Living Food Energy Powder", "Immune Defence" pills, weight loss pills, "Raw and unprocessed wild blue green algae", etc.), and accessory equipment (blender, juicers, sprouters, and a mini-trampoline). She was censured in November 2006 by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for selling unproven herbal sex aids. The products, "Fast Formula Wild Pink Yam Complex" and "Fast Formula Horny Goat Weed Complex" were both advertised as having been shown, in a controlled study, to promote sexual satisfaction. The MHRA found McKeith had been "selling goods without legal authorisation whilst making medicinal claims about their efficacy." The products have since been withdrawn. McKeith's website suggested the sex aids had been withdrawn because of European Union regulations. Goldacre contacted the MHRA, who said the removal had nothing to do with any EU regulations.
In 2007, McKeith presented Three Fat Brides, One Thin Dress for Channel 4, a competitive version of the You Are What You Eat format in which three women compete for a designer wedding dress. In addition to presenting her own TV shows, she occasionally appears in other programmes. She competed in The X Factor: Battle of the Stars, singing her rendition of "The Shoop Shoop Song". She also appeared in a health show transmitted on E4 called Supersize vs Superskinny. In 2009, she appeared on the W Network in Canada on Eat Yourself Sexy, in which participants claimed to have a diminished sense of sex appeal or sex drive, with McKeith employing the same practices as in You Are What You Eat. In November 2010, she became a contestant on the UK version of I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!. In January 2016, McKeith appeared on Celebrity Big Brother as a short-term housemate, sent in to 'detox' the contestants.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, McKeith opposed lockdowns and promoted anti-vaccination and COVID-19 conspiracy theories. She expressed her belief in a conspiracy of impending "martial law" and "fascist tyranny". She urged followers to refuse vaccines, referring to them as "clotshots", and instead suggested without evidence that nutrition could provide immunity against infection, prompting criticism from the British Nutrition Foundation and British Dietetic Association. In May 2021 she took part in an anti-vaccine protest at Westfield shopping centre and spoke at another protest in July 2021 alongside conspiracy theorists David Icke and Piers Corbyn. In November 2021, she also made posts on Twitter implying that the sperm of unvaccinated men was superior to that of vaccinated men, with no apparent medical basis for these claims.
McKeith met her husband, American lawyer Howard Magaziner, in Edinburgh, where he was spending a year studying. At the time he ran a chain of health food shops in the United States, with which she became involved. The couple now live in London and have two daughters. She suffers from scoliosis, and has said there is not a moment in her life when she is not in pain because of it.
- You Are What You Eat (2004–2007)
- Supersize vs Superskinny (2008)
- Dr Gillian McKeith's Feel Fab Forever (2009–2010)
- Eat Yourself Sexy (2010)
- I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! (2010)
- (1996) Miracle Superfood: Wild Blue-Green Algae: the nutrient powerhouse that stimulates the immune system, boosts brain power and guards against disease. ISBN 0-87983-729-2
- (2004) Gillian McKeith's living food for health: 12 natural superfoods to transform your health. ISBN 0-7499-2673-2
- (2004) You Are What You Eat. ISBN 0-452-28717-0
- (2005) You Are What You Eat Cookbook. ISBN 0-7181-4797-9
- (2006) Dr Gillian McKeith's Ultimate Health Plan: The Diet Programme That Will Keep You Slim for Life. Michael Joseph. ISBN 0-7181-4891-6
- (2006) Dr Gillian McKeith’s Shopping Guide. Michael Joseph. ISBN 0-7181-4954-8
- (2007) Slim for Life. Plume. ISBN 0-452-28925-4
- (2009) Gillian McKeith's Food Bible: How to Use Food to Cure What Ails You. Plume. ISBN 0-452-28997-1
- (2009) Gillian McKeith's Boot Camp Diet: Fourteen Days to a New You!. Penguin. ISBN 0-14-103716-4
- (2010) Women's Health: A Practical Guide to All the Stages and Ages of the Female Life Cycle. Michael Joseph. ISBN 0-7181-5435-5
- "A spoonful of cruelty helps the weight go down". The Sunday Times. 4 September 2005. Archived from the original on 6 September 2008.
- Cooke, Rachel (12 June 2005). "The vegetable monologues". The Observer. Retrieved 26 April 2021.
- "Detoxification". NY Langone Medical Center. Retrieved 10 May 2014.
- "Debunking Detox". Sense About Science. 5 January 2009. Archived from the original on 26 August 2013. Retrieved 10 May 2014.
- Ben Goldacre (11 February 2007). "What's wrong with Gillian McKeith". The Guardian.
- Horne, Marc (3 August 2021). "Gillian McKeith: Eat yourself immune, says Covid-sceptic TV presenter". The Times. Retrieved 26 August 2021.
- Stubley, Peter (24 July 2021). "Thousands of anti-vaccine protesters gather in London". The Independent. Retrieved 26 August 2021.
- Sweet, Lucy. "Why she's moved by bowels", The Times, 25 July 2004.
- Christie, Janet. "Gillian McKeith interview: Fighting fit", Scotland on Sunday, 4 January 2009.
- "Gillian McKeith's Credentials". Archived from the original on 20 April 2008. Retrieved 14 September 2017.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link), gillianmckeith.info. Retrieved 5 December 2010.
- Goldacre, Ben (30 September 2004). "Dr Gillian McKeith (PhD) continued". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 March 2010.
- Sanderson, David (12 February 2007). "Food guru agrees to slim her name". The Times.
- For the ASA request, see "Adjudications". Advertising Standards Authority. 14 February 2007. Archived from the original on 26 February 2008. Retrieved 5 December 2010.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link) (click on "Informally resolved complaints").
- For a previous, unrelated, ASA case concerning McKeith and a violation of scheduling rules for advertising and programmes, see "Broadcasting Advertising Adjudications" (PDF). Advertising Standards Authority. June 2005. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 5 December 2010.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
- Bannerman, Lucy. "TV health guru admits buying doctorate by post," The Glasgow Herald, 4 August 2004.
- Goldacre, Ben. "Brought to book: the poo lady's PhD", The Guardian, 3 February 2007.
- Also see Goldacre, Ben. "Dr Gillian McKeith (PhD) continued", The Guardian, 30 September 2004.
- Goldacre, Ben. Bad Science. Pages 112–135. London: Fourth Estate, 2008.
- Goldacre, Ben. "Ben Goldacre: why I'm battling it out with Gillian McKeith again", The Guardian, 18 July 2010.
- Chivers, Tom: "Gillian McKeith should have a PhD in how not to use Twitter", The Daily Telegraph, 14 July 2010.
- "You are what you eat". Archived from the original on 9 May 2008. Retrieved 30 January 2006.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link), Channel 4. Retrieved 5 December 2010.
- "You Are What You Eat: The Plan That Will Change Your Life", Barnes and Noble. Retrieved 5 December 2010.
- TV diet expert in borrowing boom, BBC News, 9 February 2007.
- Conlan, Tara and Tryhorn, Chris. "Channel 4 rests Celebrity Big Brother", The Guardian, 24 August 2007.
- Marber, Ian. "It must have been something I ate: dieting", The Daily Telegraph, 23 January 2006.
- "Channel 4: You Are What You Eat: Gillian Moves In".
- Muir, Jan. "How odd that diet has become a dirty word", The Daily Telegraph, 14 February 2007.
- "Episode 4 – Reverend Brian Statham", You Are What You Eat, Channel 4.
- You Are What You Eat (2004), pp. 51–52.
- You Are What You Eat (2004), p. 33.
- You Are What You Eat (2004), p. 38.
- You Are What You Eat (2004), pp. 42, 51–52.
- You Are What You Eat (2004), pp. 44–45.
- "You are What you Eat: Detox Facts", Channel 4.
- Goldacre, Ben. "Tell us the truth about nutritionists", British Medical Journal, vol 334, no. 7588, 10 February 2007, p. 292.
- Krokowski, Jan. "Blue-green for danger". Archived from the original on 5 May 2008. Retrieved 13 February 2007.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link), New Scientist, 14 January 2006. Retrieved 5 December 2010.
- "drgillianmckeith.com Web site — seems unrelated to Gillian McKeith as of 2021".
- TV diet guru rapped by regulator, BBC News, 21 November 2006.
- Also see "Press release: MHRA order removal of Gillian McKeith's illegal products" Archived 9 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine, Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, 21 November 2006. Retrieved 5 December 2010.
- Churchill, Carolyn. "Regulator raps TV diet guru's firm over sex remedy", The Herald, 22 November 2006.
- "Diet guru McKeith out of X Factor", BBC News, 31 May 2006.
- "Eat Yourself Sexy", W Network. Retrieved 5 December 2010.
- Deans, Jason. "I'm a Celebrity: Gillian McKeith drama draws 10m", The Guardian, 22 November 2010.
- "Christopher Evicted From 'CBB' As New House Guest Arrives". HuffPost UK. 27 January 2016. Retrieved 7 August 2021.
- Brewis, Harriet (22 July 2021). "12 of the best takedowns of Gillian McKeith's cryptic new Covid conspiracy". www.indy100.com. Retrieved 26 August 2021.
- "From Congo to the Capitol, conspiracy theories are surging". The Economist. 4 September 2021. ISSN 0013-0613. Retrieved 13 September 2021.
- Edmonds, Tammy Hughes, Lizzie (30 May 2021). "Anti-vaccination protesters storm Westfield and clash with police". Evening Standard. Retrieved 26 August 2021.
- "Gillian McKeith is urging unvaxxed men to 'name the price' of their sperm". www.indy100.com. 16 November 2021. Retrieved 29 November 2021.