Women sit on a bench in New York's Times Square May 31, 2012. Reuters/Brendan McDermid

The Cambridge Weight Plan, Australia’s new fad diet, is now being investigated by a government regulator to find out if the product can be legally sold in Australia. Health experts have already warned of serious side-effects such as general feeling of coldness, rash, nausea, leg cramps, hair loss, halted periods and even unexpected pregnancy from following a diet so low on nutrients. The list of side-effects has also been listed on the company’s own website.

According to the company, around 10,000 Australians have already used the diet with stunning results. It has been reported that some have even lost half their body weight after being on the Cambridge Weight Plan.

Health professionals are worried about the extremely low level of nutrients in the diet. The plan also falls below the recognised non-binding international standards for low-calorie diets. However, a Cambridge spokesperson has defended the diet saying thousands of Australians have benefitted from it and that it is scientifically validated and safe.

The spokesperson said that none of their customers have ever experienced any serious side-effect. Some of the side-effects experienced are temporary and do not have any long-term impact on the health of a person.

The first of the six stages in the Cambridge Weight Plan is the most severe as dieters have reduce their intake to 440 calories a day. Women of average height eat three shakes or soups a day, sold by Cambridge. The first three days are the worst.

Even though the diet’s supporters said that after three days, the body gradually “enters into a state triggered by chemical reactions which totally reduces the feeling of hunger,” a practicing dietician and spokesperson for the Dieticians Association of Australia, Tania Ferraretto, said that going down to only 440 calories a day is a really bad idea.

“There's absolutely no evidence for this diet. It's dangerous. We don't want people eating less than 600 calories a day, that's not enough food,” Ferraretto told The Age.

Ferraretto added that diets such as that of Cambridge seems very attractive to people because of the rapid weight loss it causes. However, that’s all water-weight and not fat.

The diet requires consuming 43 grams of proteins and 43 grams of carbohydrates, which is below the United Nations international standards of 50 grams. Although these standards are not binding in Australia, Weight Management Council of Australia has advised that any very-low calories diet must meet the standards.

Cambridge has not followed the standards as the diet plan is not a combination of foods for special medical purposes. Under Australian law, formulated meal replacement products are required to have at least 200 calories a serving. A number of Cambridge’s products do not even come close to meeting them.

A Department of Health & Human Services spokesperson said that the agency was investigating Cambridge’s products for assessing compliance with the standards. However, a Cambridge spokesman has argued that there binding standards in Australia for total replacement diets.