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Hallelujah: Great Music, But Not a Great Diet

Many people look to religion for dietary guidance. Sometimes organized religion offers official guidance in the form of dietary prohibitions (no pork) or prescriptions (halal, kosher, etc.). Sometimes individuals attempt their own interpretations, with inconsistent and sometimes amusing results.

One website lists the “Top 10 Christian Weight Loss Programs.” These are:

  1. The Daniel Plan
  2. The Daniel Fast
  3. The Maker’s Diet
  4. Take Back Your Temple
  5. First Place 4 Health
  6. Victory Steps for Women
  7. The Eden Diet
  8. The Hallelujah Diet
  9. Bod4God
  10. Weight Loss, God’s Way

Some of these emphasize prayer and partnering with the Holy Spirit, others claim to offer specific health benefits. The Daniel Plan allows any kind of food that is not man-made or processed. The Daniel Fast is a 21-day vegan detox diet. The Maker’s Diet calls for organic foods, fasting one day a week, “avoiding toxins, such as water and toothpaste with fluoride, and limiting exposure to devices with electromagnetic fields such as cell phones, microwaves, and X-rays”. And so on. Since these diets rely on faith rather than on science, there are no scientific studies to evaluate their safety or efficacy or to determine whether one of them is superior to the others.

The Hallelujah Diet

The Hallelujah Diet focuses on a biblical, vegan plant-based diet where 85% of the food you eat should be eaten in its raw natural state. This program recommends the use of supplements because the foods we consume today are less nutritious than they once were because of pollution, toxins, and pesticides. This diet is used to revive the natural self-healing power of the body by consuming enzyme-rich raw foods that are beneficial to the body at the cellular level.

No meat, dairy, eggs, or alcohol are allowed.

It claims to be “Scientifically validated. Biblically based. Over 170 diseases reversed through the Hallelujah Diet and whole-food supplements.” The diet is “designed to guide you in eating the way God intended.” But apparently God did not intend healthy eating to be sufficient, since Hallelujah diet supplements are needed to “give you the added nutrition you need to get back to your best health.”

They offer thousands of success stories (“I lost 50 pounds!” “tumors on the lungs are still regressing”) but no scientific studies. Their “research” page is laughable, citing studies like “What the Glycemic Index Really Says About Carrot Juice and Blood Glucose”. They offer a quiz “to discover the best supplements for you”. The quiz asks things like whether you suffer from constipation (defined as less than 2 soft bowel movements a day!), if you ever have colds, if you often feel sad, if you wake up during the night, if you ever have body odor, if your eyesight has gotten weaker over the last year, if you are currently taking Barley Max, etc. I tried taking the quiz twice, once answering honestly and once answering no to every question. The website promised instant results, but both times I got only a persistent “working” symbol that just kept going round and round. They offer a 60-day money back guarantee and there is a disclaimer in small print at the bottom of the page, saying individual results may vary.

Their mission is based on Genesis 1:29:

And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

It is not entirely clear how they got from this Bible verse to Barley Green and all the other supplements they sell.

The Hallelujah Diet originated with Rev. George Malkmus. Quackwatch featured him in a 2003 article. It does not inspire confidence. Malkmus claims the diet cured his colon cancer, but that diagnosis is questionable; no biopsy was done, and the diagnosis was made by nutritionists and chiropractors. He claims not to have experienced any health problems since starting the diet, but admits he had a stroke. He refused medical treatment and treated himself with extra Barley Green and carrot juice. He reluctantly took drugs to control his high blood pressure but then tried to wean himself off medication. He is anti-vaccine and sells videotapes by a doctor who claims medical care is against God’s will.

The Quackwatch article by Stephen Barrett reports that “In 1988, the FDA ordered AIM (American Image Marketing, the multilevel marketing company that Malkmus was once a distributor for) to stop claiming that Barley Green would make people more energetic and was effective against cancer, arthritis, high blood pressure, obesity, depression, and many other health problems. The FDA also told the company to stop making false statements about the quality of the American food supply. In 1989, the FDA seized quantities of several AIM products because their labeling or promotional material exaggerated the dietary value of the products. The case was settled by a consent decree ordering the destruction of one product and the offending labeling for the others. However, some distributors continued to make false claims, including claims that Barley Green is effective against cancer.”

Quackwatch’s (and my) conclusion

Although low-fat, high-fiber diets can be healthful, the Hallelujah Diet is unbalanced and can lead to serious deficiencies. The overall program is expensive because the recommended supplements cost over $2,000 a year. Reverend Malkmus’ sales pitch includes beliefs that are historically and nutritionally senseless, as well as health claims for which he lacks appropriate substantiation. Using his diet instead of appropriate medical care is very foolish.

I have no objection to people following religious dietary beliefs. I would not object if people chose to follow arbitrary rules like not eating foods whose name starts with a vowel. But I have to agree with Stephen Barrett that following the Hallelujah Diet makes no sense and is very foolish.

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Posted by Harriet Hall

Harriet Hall, MD also known as The SkepDoc, is a retired family physician who writes about pseudoscience and questionable medical practices. She received her BA and MD from the University of Washington, did her internship in the Air Force (the second female ever to do so),  and was the first female graduate of the Air Force family practice residency at Eglin Air Force Base. During a long career as an Air Force physician, she held various positions from flight surgeon to DBMS (Director of Base Medical Services) and did everything from delivering babies to taking the controls of a B-52. She retired with the rank of Colonel.  In 2008 she published her memoirs, Women Aren't Supposed to Fly.