Originally published July 22 2013
Restrictive dieting harms your health in seven major ways
by Linn Cole
(NaturalNews) Diets aren't only frequently ineffective; they can also be dangerous. Chronic or frequent dieting can easily lead to a host of nutrient deficiencies and may even encourage significant rebound weight gain. If these risks frustrate you, or you've been frustrated by dieting before, read on and choose nutrient-dense diets high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes over plans that insist on paltry portions of bad-for-you foods.
Loss of muscle
Muscles are important for keeping fat in check by burning calories and keeping metabolism high. During a low-calorie diet, your body usually isn't being given enough protein to maintain its muscle. As muscle is burned for energy, it becomes more and more likely that what calories you do take in through food will be stored as fat.
It's expected that you will use your willpower to overcome cravings while dieting. Yet in fact, cravings are actually the body's way of saving itself from what it perceives as starvation and malnutrition. In the face of continued dieting, your body will continually escalate food cravings until they're too loud to ignore. This can happen as early as a few weeks into dieting.
In addition to the threats of muscle loss and rebound overeating, the body has a third mechanism to maintain weight during a diet: slowing your metabolic rate. It does this by lowering levels of the thyroid hormone T3, which regulates metabolism. Frequent dieting only worsens the effect, making sustainable weight loss a distant possibility.
While low-fat dieting has been in fashion for decades, healthy fats from foods like meat, fish, eggs, avocados, and nuts and seeds are absolutely necessary for health. Fat cushions organs, coats every cell in the body, and is needed for brain function, production of hormones and absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K. Low-fat diets also tend to be high-carb diets, which have been linked to heart disease, cancer and other ills.
Amino acids derived from proteins are used in the body to produce powerful mood-lifting chemicals like serotonin and melatonin are to thank for our sense of well-being and restful sleep. When consuming fewer calories - and amino acids - than are needed, serotonin deficiency can lead to low self-esteem, creating a vicious cycle of dieting in the pursuit of feeling better. Another hallmark of serotonin deficiency, obsessiveness, is linked to the development of eating disorders.
Low-calorie diets are low in both macronutrients - fat, protein and carbs - and micronutrients, or vitamins and minerals. One symptom of vitamin B1 deficiency, for example, is loss of appetite, while deficiency of the mineral zinc is expressed as both loss of appetite and the lack of enjoyment of foods without strong, sweet, salty or spicy tastes. A weakened appetite may pave the way for anorexia, while zinc deficiency may also result in avoidance of healthful foods like fruits and vegetables that are abundant in nutrients.
Without consuming enough food to properly fuel your body, you may be tempted to turn to non-food sources of energy including nicotine, caffeine and amphetamines. These stimulants energize you by drawing on your adrenal glands, eventually burning them out. Others prefer to use diet products containing artificial sweeteners, which have their own addictive properties and health risks. Among the 92 recorded problems induced by taking aspartame (Equal), for example, are migraines, dizziness, panic attacks, skin rashes, nervousness, and nausea.
Ross, Julia. The Diet Cure. New York: Penguin, 2012. eBook.
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