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Gray’s milkshake brings all the boys to the yard…..

February 3rd, 2005

Dr Petra

John Gray, the controversial writer of ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’, extended his million dollar self help empire this week by launching a range of milkshakes that he states lead to weight loss by working differently on women and men’s brains. According to Gray – who is not a biologist, neurologist, nutritionist, or psychologist – brain chemistry leads to people being overweight.

Gray’s whole industry is based on the idea that men and women are so dramatically different they may as well come from entirely different planets. He’s built a career based on simplistic ideas that sound convincing, but have no basis within science.

Nor is he supported by the wider scientific community, who are likely to be reeling at the latest offering from Gray, who consistently uses ‘science speak’ to sell his products.

His latest venture is diet milkshakes that reportedly balance neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, and reduce appetite by increasing positive feelings. Women, according to Gray, use up their seratonin faster than men so get depressed and comfort eat. Men use up all their dopamine supplies at work and overeat on their return home.

Apart from deducing from this that women don’t work, and men never comfort eat when they feel down, there are more worrying questions about this latest Gray endeavour.

This is the man who’s been repeatedly criticised for inaccurate theories, a lack of any scientific basis for his work, and a dubious mail order degree from a now defunct university. Yet the press are giving coverage to the new range of milkshakes, using terms that the public will find reassuring – “‘Dr’ Gray”, “neurotransmitters”, “serotonin”, “dopamine” and so on. It sounds good. It “guarantees” weight loss. And everyone knows male and female brains are dramatically different, so it’s got to be true.

Wrong. With the eagerness of the press to pick up on this story, yet again, we see a lack of journalistic rigour that’s becoming sadly all too common in stories around health, nutrition and gender relations.

Where were the questions about John Gray’s qualifications? Surely people who’re buying a product that contains serotonin or dopamine would want to know it was based on rigorous research by someone with qualifications in chemistry, neurology or similar.

How do we know the product works? Was it meticulously tested against placebo milkshakes on a wide range of participants? Are there any side effects of the product, or people who shouldn’t drink it? And finally what about general dietary advice? Simply drinking a milkshake, whatever it’s ingredients, isn’t going to magically lead to weight loss – only a balanced healthy diet and exercise plan is going to do that.

If you want to lose weight, the doctor you should trust to give you advice is your GP, not someone who bought their qualification from an institution that no longer exists. If you want nutritional information, my colleagues who research this area recommend the British Dietetic Association.

And if you want to write a story about weight loss or gender (or both), then use someone who’s qualified. They’re not hard to spot. They’re the ones who aren’t flogging you milkshakes that lead to weight loss because those who drink them come from different planets.

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