Dangers of fad diets
The New Year brings with it the hope of a fresh start and resolution lists. Many will have losing the excess holiday weight on top of their goals for the New Year.Playing to these weight loss sentiments are a series of fad diets – the high protein diet, the liquid diet, the zero fat diet – all claiming to leave those who try them out slim and trim.
However, these fad diets can wreak havoc with the digestive system and other body processes. “People resort to a quick fix to lose weight without realising the strain they put on their body and organs. Our body requires food from the three main food groups namely carbohydrates, proteins and fats which are complemented by vitamins, minerals and fibre,” said Dr. Ganesh Bhat, Consultant Gastroenterologist at Medeor 24×7 Hospital, Dubai. “Omitting a certain food group from the diet or going on an all liquid diet can hamper bodily functions and make a person undernourished.”
Liquid only juice cleanse diets, that promise to rid the body of toxins and result in weight loss, are fast gathering popularity across the world. One such diet involves the drinking of 6 to 12 glasses of a concoction of lemon juice, cayenne pepper, maple syrup and water during the day and a laxative tea in the night.
“One of the main functions of the liver and kidneys is to rid the body of toxins and hence we do not need to do so through these detox cleanses. Liquid only diets are low in protein which will hamper the building of cells and muscle regeneration,” Dr. Bhat said. “Rather than lifting one’s mood like detoxes promise they result in mood swings, fatigue and irritability. It also affects the digestive system causing stomach pain, irritable bowel syndrome and acidity and in the long run stomach ulcers. With no food to digest, the stomach acids can begin to digest the walls of the stomach.”
Another popular fad diet is the one that encourages dieters to consume up to 50% of their daily calorie intake in protein with little or no carbohydrate. “Consuming a diet high in protein can be detrimental to one’s health. Sure, it helps you feel fuller and hence you consume fewer calories in the short run. In the long run, the lack of carbohydrates equates to less fiber consumption bringing with it constipation,” the Doctor continued. “It can also hamper kidney function in the long run as our body may have trouble eliminating the large quantity of by-products of protein metabolism.”
The word fat has many bad connotations especially in a world where size 0 models continue to walk the runways. However, cutting out fat or consuming very little fats puts your health at risk.
“Our bodies use fats to help in the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K, which are essential for growth, immunity, cell repair and blood clotting. When fats are cut from a diet, these vitamins are not utilized and are stored in the liver tissue and eventually excreted resulting in vitamin deficiency,” Dr. Bhat said. “Another risk of low fat diets is that it brings down the level of HDL or the good cholesterol level in our body. It is important to maintain optimum levels of HDL as it transports LDL or bad cholesterol from the blood to the liver so it can be excreted from our body. When the balance is thrown, our LDL levels are heightened putting us at risk for heart disease.”
Dr. Bhat advocates a balanced diet of proteins, carbohydrates and good fats coupled with vitamins, minerals and fibre along with an active lifestyle to achieve weight loss.
“Cutting out foods high in refined sugar, processed foods and fast food can result in weight loss over a sustained period of time,” he said. “Make sure you get at least 30 minutes of exercise daily too.”
“At Medeor 24×7 Hospital, we are committed to the health of the UAE population and believe in a holistic lifestyle that promotes a balanced diet and an active lifestyle which will not only help an individual lose weight but also cuts down their risk of lifestyle-related diseases such as diabetes,” said Dr. Mohammed Berer, Medical Director at Medeor 24×7 Hospital, Dubai.
Dangers of fad diets