Is dieting making you malnourished?

Published on March 2013 If you think malnutrition is only for the poor and hungry, think again. If you are on a fad diet that advocates exclusion of many food

  • PublishedMarch 8, 2013

Published on March 2013

If you think malnutrition is only for the poor and hungry, think again. If you are on a fad diet that advocates exclusion of many food groups or have food intolerance, you may be in for a rude shock. You could be malnourished. Read on…

There is so much focus today on good nutrition and weight loss that many people are on exclusion diets – wheat-free, dairy-free, carbohydrate free, sugar-free, fat-free, the list is endless. Weight conscious people, particularly women, have banned specific foods from their diets believing that they are the cause of their weight issues. Others claim food allergy or intolerance, seen in symptoms such as bloating and headaches, is the reason they have banned certain foods from their diets. Doctors are warning that these exclusion diets, made popular by celebrities, numerous diet books and diet gurus, as well as Internet postings, pose a great risk to women’s health, especially young women whose bodies are still developing. People on diets are putting themselves at risk by cutting out important nutrients without medical or nutritional advice. Among the health risks are malnourishment, nutrient deficiency, osteoporosis and immune problems.

The common culprits of suspected food intolerance are wheat and dairy products, but popular diets have also contributed to dieters avoiding whole food groups, such as carbohydrates, that supply vital nutrients, thus leaving themselves open to malnutrition and other health problems.

Full-blown malnutrition is a condition that happens when the body does not get the right amount of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to maintain healthy tissues and organ function. Poverty and lack of food, especially during drought periods, are the primary reasons for malnutrition, but it can also be caused by diseases such as cancers, AIDS, anorexia and bulimia, and intestinal disorders where the body can’t absorb food.

Unintentionally losing 10lbs or more may be a sign of malnutrition or other health issues and should ring a warning bell. Many of the fad diets that urge you to cut out on entire food groups, such as carbohydrates, could have long-term nutritional and health effects on you. Health experts say that your diet needs to be balanced because all nutrients, vitamins and minerals, which we get from food groups, perform certain vital functions in the body.

Essential vitamins and minerals perform a multitude of tasks, such as vitamin C, which is vital for the immune system, and vitamin D, which is important for the development of healthy bones. Women particularly need to be educated about the risks involved in faddy diets.

If you are among the few who have true food intolerance, it is possible to cut out some things from your diet without affecting your nutrient intake, as long as you know what you are doing. A dietician should guide diets of people who suffer from food intolerance. If you were to cut milk from your diet, for example, you would be missing the nutrient calcium. In order to ensure you are getting calcium, you would need to substitute milk with something else, such as goat’s milk, fortified soya milk or multivitamins. There is calcium in broccoli, but you would need to eat 20 servings a day of the vegetable to get your recommended dietary intake (RDI). That’s a lot of broccoli, which you cannot handle.

If you think you have intolerance to a food, don’t just cut it out, seek advice from your doctor or a dietician and make sure you are substituting the nutrients it provides.

You could use other food groups or food supplements. For example, if you have a true allergy to milk, you can replace it with soy milk or, instead of wheat based foods you could use gluten-free versions or rice. Note that it becomes dangerous when you start cutting out entire food groups.
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