McKeith's health claims under fire

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SHE gained a global audience of millions as the hectoring host of hit TV show You Are What You Eat.

But now Scottish nutritionist Gillian McKeith is to be reported to the advertising authorities over claims that visitors to her new age health resort can be healed by mystic powers.

The Perth-born health guru has set up a Wellness Retreat in rural Spain, which boasts that its "amazing energy vortex" can help to heal and rejuvenate visitors as well as assist them in losing weight.

However, the TV presenter's claims are to be probed by advertising watchdogs after the British Medical Association (BMA) questioned her assertions and claimed they were not supported by solid scientific evidence.

McKeith claims the creation of a 1,500-a-week "educational inspirational centre for the mind, body and spirit" near the historic Andalucian town of Ronda is the culmination of a long-standing dream.

Promotional material for the venture, on McKeith's official website, states: "I want you to be able to literally detox from the world in a most glorious location with unsurpassed nurturing mountains, swooning eagles, a magnificent lake, big blue skies and an amazing energy vortex for rejuvenation, weight loss and vitality.

"Feel the vibration of the energy vortex of this spectacular location, and be healed by it! It is a moment that will stay with you forever."

As well as accommodation in "hypo-allergenically built" rooms, those attending the seven-day Wellness programme are promised raw and vegan food, sprouted seeds and raw juice, Chi yoga meditation, "moderate" fitness exercise, swimming, tennis and sailing.In addition, visitors are offered a less orthodox programme of "connective energy healing", "intuitive vibrational exercises", "emotional release therapy" and "breathing visualisation techniques".

The course offers help in dealing with "emotional blockages" and advice to help prevent a range of ailments including diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, bloating, indigestion and high blood pressure.

A spokeswoman for the BMA said:

"We do not believe that there is any scientific evidence base to support the existence of healing properties from an 'energy vortex'.

"While recognising the benefit of such retreats to patients who want to lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle, it is important that patients are protected against unsupported claims about being able to heal their ailments."

The National Secular Society (NSS) plans to report McKeith Research to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the independent body which insists that firms must be able to substantiate all the claims they make.

Terry Sanderson, president of the group, which promotes rational, scientific thought, said: "We have had several complaints upheld against 'spiritual healers' who make claims with no evidence to back them up.

"We will be looking very carefully at Gillian McKeith's advertising."

He added: "Anyone who signs up in the hope of being healed by a so-called energy vortex is likely to be either so rich that 1,500 a week doesn't concern them or so desperate that this is their last hope. This appears to be new age flim-flam at its exploitative worst."

Scotland on Sunday invited McKeith Research Ltd, which markets the retreat, to respond to the claims and to defend their record.

Instead, Howard White, the firm's marketing director, sent a bizarre response via e-mail, which stated:

"THEY HAVE STARTED ALREADY. And of course it starts in Scotland. I guess they are all so healthy.

And never knew that British Medical Association were experts on retreats. Hx."

The terms and conditions for the Spanish retreat appear to contradict the dramatic health-enhancing assertions made elsewhere on the website.

They state: "The Retreat is an educational centre for information training and education, not a medical or therapeutic facility.

"Gillian McKeith accepts no personal or therapeutic liability or responsibility for the client."

It says clients with medical problems should take them up with their GP.

The Tayside-born broadcaster, author and entrepreneur, has fallen foul of advertising watchdogs before. In 2007, McKeith agreed to stop using the academic title "Dr" in advertisements after the ASA ruled it was "likely to mislead the public".

The Edinburgh University linguistics graduate obtained a master's degree and a PhD, both in holistic nutrition, via a distance-learning programme from the non-accredited American Holistic College of Nutrition.