Crash diets crush your health and leave you with debilitating side effects. There were certain articles and news on crash diets even on reputed newspapers worldwide quoting that ‘crash diets DO work’ or ‘crash diets are not so bad after all!’ but these claims are untrue and one must take caution.
Weight loss is on top of the agenda list constantly for many people and they are ready to do anything to fulfill their wish. By anything, I mean it literally-from very low-calorie diets (crash diets), eating pills as meals, consuming meal replacement shakes or powders to getting themselves operated to get rid of excess body fat or starving to death! All of us would like to walk down the ramp with beautiful attires, don’t we? A healthy body weight is not the goal but a ‘glam’ body (for females) or a muscular physique (for males) that fascinates people around and make them long for such a figure is the dream of many individuals today.
Meal replacement programs or popularly known to the world as ‘crash diets’ are those that contain very low-calorie content of not more than 600 or 800 kcal per day pursued predominantly for weight loss, diabetes control and controlled blood pressure numbers. Such programs are vehemently followed and growing to be increasingly popular among individuals since the last couple of years. Americans spend billions of dollars, almost $66 billion to be precise, on weight loss products which is not surprising as more than 70% of adults living in the United States are overweight/obese (according to NIH). Two-third of Britons are on a diet most times and Indians are getting fatter by the day, almost between 8 and 38% of rural Indians as well as between 13 and 50% of urban Indians suffer from obesity. The status of people in other parts of the world are not any better with every country at the brink of obesity and the world succumbing to an obesity epidemic! Such desperation and inability to curb weight gain forces people to take up quicker alternatives to weight loss ignorant (or either unconcerned) of the resulting consequences.
If you are aware, any man requires around 2500kCal per day to maintain his weight on a healthy, balanced diet and a woman requires around 2000kCal every day and these values can vary depending on the person’s age, weight, lifestyle and metabolism predominantly. Comparing the calorie intake involved in crash diets with a normal diet shows stark differences which nonetheless indicates the grueling truth of crash diets on our health and fitness.
Effect on Heart Health
Crash diets are supposedly helpful in losing weight or maintaining blood sugar levels but what about their effect on heart health? Research scientists have already given clear warnings about the disastrous effects of crash diets which include weakened immune system, slowing down of metabolism and increased risk of dehydration and arrhythmia. The latest impact of these unhealthy diet forms is on our heart-the crux of our life!
The research that focused specifically on heart health risks due to crash diets used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to study the effects of a very low-calorie diet on human heart and the distribution of fat in the abdomen, liver and heart muscle. The study included 21 obese individuals around the average age of 52 of which 6 of them were men. All of them had an average body mass index (BMI) of 37 (way above the obesity demarcation!) and were made to consume a diet that had a calorie value between 600 and 800kCal per day for eight weeks. When an MRI was taken after one week of consuming this crash diet, total body fat, visceral fat and liver fat decreased by 6%, 11% and 42% respectively. There was significant improvement in fasting total cholesterol, triglycerides, insulin resistance, glucose and blood pressure. Please don’t feel overjoyed by reading this as after the same one-week time, heart fat content had risen by 44%. Worse, heart functioning deteriorated and the heart’s prime job of pumping blood was affected badly. At the same time, at the end of the eighth week, heart fat content and functioning improved compared to what existed before the participants started following the diet and so were improvements in body fat and cholesterol measurements visible. The surprise element here is that, risk factors of heart disease such as liver fat and diabetes levels were controlled which is a strong indication to show improved heart functioning, yet heart function worsened in the initial week before starting to show improvements. Researchers quote that staggering calorie decline elevates fat release from different parts of the body into the blood and this could have been taken up by the heart muscle. Once the body became accustomed to the decreased calorie restrictions, heart functioning returned to its normalcy. Even though very low-calorie diets are rarely (rarest of the rare) suggested by physicians to combat obesity problems in people suffering from morbid obesity, a more sustained diet is what actually is fruitful in the long run.
Even if you consider such a dip in heart functioning to be normal in the case of heart-healthy citizens, what about people with heart problems who take up crash diets? The results would be worsening-it might aggravate breathlessness or increase risk of arrhythmias, symptoms of heart failure. With such dangers lurking around a very low-calorie diet, what is the need of taking up these for the sake of a healthy body? Something that we pursue for the sake of health must only help to elevate fitness and in no way must try to bring it down, even by a minimum percentage.
Any Kind of Diet Comes with Its Set of Disadvantages
Crash diets might seem the perfect choice for losing a few pounds/kilograms before your graduation ceremony, meetup with childhood friends or your wedding day. But, these lost pounds/kilograms don’t even stay off long enough for you to enjoy the pleasure of it and bounce back in a jiffy. Comparatively, gradual weight loss works better on the body resulting in much-sustained long-term weight reduction and less weight gain compared to rapid weight loss using a very-low calorie diet.
Don’t replace your lunch with a protein shake, never go for supplements/super foods that promise to help you lose staggering weight numbers in a week or two, avoid skipping meals or avoiding a food group entirely, don’t cut off your intake of animal proteins completely and finally, don’t give up on your healthy weight loss approach over some crash diet. Always remember that there is no short cut to success. Effectively lose weight by practicing a disciplined dietary routine with regular physical activity and a stress-free living. Balance your macronutrient intake, eat the required quantities of healthy fats and get your needed dairy to stay fit and strong. Get in touch with a registered dietitian nutritionist at www.firsteatright.com to lose weight in the right way by sticking to correct portions of the required nutrients.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.