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You can thank — or blame — Gwyneth Paltrow.
In early 2020, on her Netflix series “The Goop Lab,” the actress-turned-lifestyle guru tried a five-day dietary program called ProLon that supposedly mimics fasting and has adherents consuming just 700 to 1,100 calories per day.
On the show, Paltrow struggled with the restrictive regimen (she was quite hungry) but ultimately called it “pretty incredible,” and said she saw 1.7 years shaved off her biological age, per a blood test. A previously little-known, fringe diet was gobbled up by the mainstream.
Since it was launched in 2016, ProLon has seen “explosive growth,” as president of the company’s consumer division, Manos Spanos, told The Post. Sales last year are expected to be around $70 million, triple what they were three years ago, he said, and the company secured $20 million in a recent fund-raising round.
While the company says that the purpose of diet is “to trigger rejuvenation,” it notes that weight loss may occur, with participants in a clinical trial averaging a loss of 5.7 pounds after doing the five-day, $249 program three times in three months. “The Real Housewives of New York City” star Sonja Morgan is a ProLon customer, and celeb fans reportedly include Eva Longoria, Jennifer Aniston and Kate Hudson.
‘I’ve become very fond of olives’
Debbie Allen Wright said that the hunger pains are worth it. She first tried ProLon 18 months ago after seeing it on “The Goop Lab” and now does it every few months with the change of season.
“After my first five days, I saw profound results,” said the 54-year-old Massachusetts-based health coach and lifestyle reporter for “Great Day Connecticut.”
She dropped five pounds in five days, which she said was less important to her than the other health benefits — a higher heart rate variable (a sign of cardiac health, which she checks on her fitness band) and improved energy.
She was also inspired to drink less red wine, something she really enjoys. “I felt so good [after ProLon] that I wanted to cut way back,” she said.
The program’s premise is that it mimics the purported benefits of fasting — which ProLon claims include cell renewal, mental clarity, improved metabolic health and fat loss – while allowing one to eat, sorta. The diet features five boxes of food for each of the five days. Breakfast is typically a nut-based nutrition bar and herbal tea; lunch and dinner are dehydrated plant-based soups that are prepared from packets.
There’s also a special “L-Drink” made from vegetable glycerin that can be sipped all day long. Snacks on the program include olives, tea and special crackers.
“I’ve become very fond of olives,” said Wright. “They taste amazing when that’s all you can eat in between your soups.”
Health or hype?
So what’s the science behind the cleanse — and does it glorify crash dieting? The specifics are a closely guarded secret attributed to the program’s creator, Dr. Valter Longo, director of the Longevity Institute at the University of Southern California.
“There’s $32 million worth of R&D behind this and 20 years of research,” said Spanos, noting it’s been conducted in partnership with various universities. “There is no pixie dust.”
Still, ProLon has Instagrammers and TikTokers helping to promote the product in exchange for free products and money. But, Spanos is quick to note, it’s not a multilevel marketing company akin to BeachBody or Herbalife.
Health coach Audrey Zona is one of the promoters. The 55-year-old from Franklin Lakes, NJ, first tried ProLon herself in the fall of 2020 and said she lost five pounds and saw her energy soar. She’s done the cleanse six more times and now promotes the brand on social media as a paid ProLon ambassador.
“What I love most is how this helps to change your relationship with food,” Zona said. “During the five days, I encourage my clients and those I coach to really dig deeper and become curious about why you eat what you eat.”
But some independent health experts say ProLon is pulling a fast one.
Lorraine Kearney, a certified dietitian and nutritionist and the founder of New York City Nutrition in NoMad, called out ProLon as a “fad diet” that “reduces calorie intake to suboptimal levels” and has the potential “to trigger an eating disorder,” Kearney said.
She definitely wouldn’t recommend it to any of her clients. “It tells people to follow their rules, rather than assisting clients on how to make changes to their current diet to see results.”
“Personally, I believe no one should follow the ProLon diet plan,” Kearney said.