UAE: Doctors say fad diets don't promote health

Healthcare specialists say they can't be followed in the long run as they affect productivity



By SM Ayaz Zakir

Published: Sat 7 May 2022, 4:09 PM

Last updated: Sat 7 May 2022, 10:19 PM

Most fad diets promise unrealistic weight loss and are neither based on optimal diet nor promote health, said Dr Baljinder Singh, head of emergency department, Thumbay University Hospital. “Most of these diets lead to some weight loss, but it’s really difficult to say whether it’s fat loss or muscle mass. Once the diet is stopped, weight gain is imminent,” said Dr Singh.

In recent times diet plans such as low carb diet, Keto diet, only-juice diet etc., have become quite popular, while some have also turned to popping metabolism-boosting pills or fat burning pills to shed the flab. “A fad diet is a plan that promotes results such as fast weight loss without proper scientific evidence to support its claims. Specifically in UAE, most people follow Keto diet, detox diet, Atkins diet, only-fruit diet, gluten-free diet, etc,” said Dr Singh.

Medics say these diets are tough to keep up after the initial enthusiasm. “Mostly fad diets are hard to follow in the long run and can affect health and complicate pre-existing medical conditions,” said Juliot Vinolia Rajarathinam, clinical dietitian and consultant nutritionist, Medeor Hospital, Dubai.

She said they also affect one’s energy levels and productivity. “These diets lead to loss of muscle mass and slowing down of the metabolism, signalling the body to switch on to fat-storage mode,” said Vinolia.

Pointing out the risk of nutritional deficiency, especially iron, vitamin D and calcium, Viniola said vitamins are crucial for hormonal function and general health. “It can give rise to hypothyroidism, PCOD, gall stones, kidney stones and insulin insensitivity,” added Vinolia.

Dr Singh said depriving oneself of certain nutrients can lead to side-effects such as dehydration, bad breath, fatigue, hair loss, bowel disturbance, elevated uric acid and kidney-related issues, and specific nutrient deficiencies.

Specialists say more than any diet one should follow a healthy lifestyle which includes eating a balanced diet and being physically active. “The benefit of any short-cut diet plan never lasts and always brings some health risks,” said Dr Singh.

“The approach should be to consume timely meals — especially early diner — avoid overeating, and refrain from sugar and processed foods. One should also ensure one is drinking adequate amount of water throughout the day while doing atleast 30 minutes of exercise three times a week,” he added.

Experts say eating meals at regular intervals is the first step in overcoming overeating and ensuring improved digestion and health. “While being mindful of stress and social eating, self-educating ourselves about health and food can help keep individuals motivated,” said Dr Singh.

“Meal planning is also important for a healthy lifestyle, which includes making a grocery list in advance and going through it before shopping and knocking off, or limiting unhealthy items such as processed foods, soft drinks and sugary or high salt foodstuffs.

“Lastly, less of eating out is crucial in maintaining weight and staying healthy,” added Dr Singh.

Vinolia says our food habits are controlled by three factors.

1. Our brain

Stress, mood swings and sleep deprivation can reduce the feel-good chemicals serotonin, melatonin, and dopamine in our brains. We should be mindful that sugar greatly affects this chemical release and makes us more addictive to sugar than relating to real life emotions. Avoid bingeing on sugar for stress relief— rather choose warm herbal teas and unsweetened cocoa or dark chocolates or even more natural foods like nuts.

2. The gut

Every time we feel hungry, or have an urge to eat, we need to first ask ourselves whether it is hunger, craving or simply thirst. We often confuse hunger with thirst and end up snacking. The best thing to do is first sip on hot or cold water to avoid unnecessary snacking between mealtimes.

3. Mind

A sound, stress-free mind can be ensured by maintaining essential work life balance with adequate sleep and meditation exercise or indulging in hobbies that trigger happiness-boosting hormones and help the brain better understand the body signals and maintain one’s overall wellbeing.

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