Other questions on diet and nutrition
Overweight from undereating?
Q . Can I be overweight from under-eating?On the advice of my gym, I kept a list of what I ate for a week along with the calorie count. I was consuming about 1500 calories a day. They determined the amount of calories I need a day from my weight in kg x 25 + 15% (for lifestyle). It came out at 4255 calories.
They told me that my body was in a "famine" mode and was storing everything I fed it. I've altered what I eat, but how long does it take to re-train the body out of this "mode"?
A. Dieting in the sense of restricting calorie intake has indeed a strange effect on the body's metabolism. It will not only act more efficiently in food conversion to energy, it will start to break down fat and eventually muscle. This is why you can live for months without food but only days without water. When food comes along again not only are there too many calories to balance energy output (exercise) but any extra is rapidly stored up as fat for the next famine that comes along. It is better to balance calorie intake against energy out put and maintain a more or less constant weight consistent with your build and height.
Fifteen year old wanting to lose weight
Q . I'm fifteen this year and I weigh 13 stone. I've been dieting ever since I can remember. I will lose weight but then put it back on. I'm thinkin of having an operation but can't find a place that does it. Can you suggest where, or how to overcome this problem.
A. First of all forget an operation not least because no surgeon in their right mind would perform one on such a young man. You do not give your height which is vital as your BMI (body mass index) may be quite normal. Dieting is a useless experience as you have already found out. The clue at your age is to increase your exercise.
Find some sort of sport or activity that you enjoy. Don't join a rugby club if you hate the idea of enormous men sitting on your head. Get off the bus one stop early and walk very briskly the rest of the way. Do the same in the other direction. Use the stairs all the time and walk up them briskly. Try this for three months while cutting back on all fried foods and see the marvellous results.
Anaphylactic shock from chicken?
Q . Is it possible to get anaphylactic shock (or a form of) from eating chicken?
A. Anaphylactic shock is thankfully rare and is a massive over response to an allergen. Instead of simply neutralising the foreign organism the body goes into overdrive producing inflammation all over the body not just where the allergic attack actually took place. The person rapidly becomes short of breath as the lungs constrict, their blood pressure falls and they soon lose consciousness. The only treatment is to get medical attention as soon as possible unless they carry an emergency kit with them (only where there has been a similar event previously).
It is generally seen in hospital where someone is given an injection of drugs to which the person is very sensitive. It can happen in the community from bee stings, certain foods (especially nuts) but also contact with chemicals. You would need to be hyper allergic to the substance for such a violent reaction to occur. For some unknown reason it does appear to be on the increase. I personally have never seen such a response to chicken despite many years in A&E. There are common minor allergic responses to chicken such as itching and flushing. Theoretically it is possible to have an anaphylactic response but I suspect you would need to have direct contact between the blood and the food. If you are worried and have had any kind of reaction to chicken, either through handling or eating the flesh, you should obviously avoid it. This can be more difficult than it sounds as chicken finds itself in many food products. If it is any compensation, I suspect the poor chicken gets a pretty nasty shock the first time it lays an egg.
How to lower cholesterol
Q . I have raised cholestrol (5.9) but have read recently that diet only accounts for 20% of a cholestrol count. I am cutting down on saturated/trans fats but will this make a significant difference? I exercise regularly so what else can I do to reduce my level.
A. You're correct that dietary cholesterol accounts for very little of your blood cholesterol, and also correct to reduce your intake of saturated and trans fatty acids, which are the two groups of fats known to increase cholesterol, particularly the 'bad' form of cholesterol termed 'LDL' (low density lipoprotein, if you want the definition) cholesterol, which is the unprocessed cholesterol that appears to do more damage to the artery walls.
Cutting down on these fats WILL make a significant difference, so continue to avoid rich sources of these, such as cream, butter, lard, and processed fatty foods such as biscuits, pastries, and foods fried in polyunsaturated fats (sunflower and corn oils).
Other dietary changes you can make include:
Use more olive oil or canola (rapeseed) oil and spreads, providing you are not overweight. These are high in MONO unsaturated fats that not only reduce your total cholesterol, but also also reduce the blood LDL cholesterol whilst maintaining the levels of good 'HDL' (high density lipoprotein) cholesterol — HDL cholesterol has been processed by the body already and is not a health risk at all.
Take the '5 a day' fruit and vegetable challenge — having the 5 portions (equivalent to a large handful of any fruit or veg, or a small carton of fruit juice) provides you with antioxidant substances (both vitamins and other substances) that will 'stabilise' your LDL cholesterol and reduce the risk of it depositing on your artery wall. This advice also reduces your risk of other chronic health problems such as cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis.
It should go without saying that you should avoid smoking, and take more exercise on a regular basis to help, and if you are overweight, losing some of that will also help reduce your cholesterol level.
Q . Is organic food better for you?
A. Organic food is food grown without the use of artificial fertilisers, pesticides, or other chemicals, with the ethos on animal husbandry without unnecessary use of antibiotics or other medications, and traditional crop rotation techniques to minimise changes to the environment, which also extends to food processing and packaging. Organic food assessment therefore by definition must exclude genetically modified foodstuffs.
'Organic' is a term defined in UK law, with all organic food production and processing governed by strict guidelines. Organic food labelling in the UK is regulated through the UK Register of Organic Food Standards (UKROFS) which set the standards that are in line with European Community directives on organic farming. Each of the certification bodies of UKROFS have their own symbol and EU code number. All organic food is labelled with the code number of the certification body. In the UK, the most well known is the Soil Association, whose number that appears on organic produce is UK5.
Whether organic food is better for us remains a contentious issue. All plants require specific nutrients to grow, and without which their growth is hampered or impaired, but a plant cannot discriminate between — for example — nitrogen provided from effluent waste or that provided by a nitrate fertiliser. Nutritionally, therefore, there is little difference between an organically grown crop and a non-organic crop.
A major concern is the use of pesticides in farming, to help control the 1 million species of harmful insects, and 1500 plant diseases that may cause crop damage. Although there are safety levels set regarding the maximum permitted levels of pesticides in specific foodstuffs (with reduced levels being set if more than one pesticide is used on a specific food), frequent analysis of vegetables from within and outside Europe have shown higher than acceptable levels of pesticide residues, which some find worrying.
There has been health concerns regarding the use of pesticides (such as organophosphates and carbaryl compounds), herbicides and fungicides, although pesticides can be as innocuous as sulphur or copper salts. Pesticide levels are reduced during washing, cooking, or processing (canning, freezing) fruits and vegetables, with negligible amounts remaining in the final product.
Conversely, organic foods tend to be higher in price than their non-organic counterparts (although the major supermarkets are minimising this difference), and have a shorter 'shelf life' before deteriorating. Some claim that organic foods taste better than non-organic, but the difference is probably due to time taken from farm-to-fork. For city dwellers, there is probably little discernable difference in taste in a 4 day old vegetable whether it's organic or not. The bottom line? Want to subscribe to sustainable farming of little environmental risk? Then organic food is for you. But from a nutritional adequacy concept, there is little difference between organic and non-organic fruit and vegetables.
How much water should I drink?
Q . I know I should be drinking more water than I do at the moment, but how do I know how much I need?
A. Adequate fluid intake helps regulate body temperature, lubricates and cushions joints, carries nutrients around the body and enhances waste processing and removal and acts as a solvent for most nutrients. Mild dehydration can influence thinking processes and muddle thoughts. As well as drinks, water is present in many foods that we eat. Fruits and vegetables contain 95-99% water, fruit juices are between 80-90% water, and even cereals and meat provide between 10-60% water.
The average adult male will lose around 2.5 litres a day as urine, sweat or lost in breathing. Water needs vary from person to person, and is based on body composition, physical activity, environment (high temperatures and high humidity increase losses), and metabolism. The average fluid requirement is around 25-35ml per kg body weight per day — a simpler rule of thumb is between 8-10 cups of fluid a day. Be guided by your visits to the toilet — a concentrated dark urine passed only once or twice a day indicates dehydration. If you have a problem passing urine with increasing age don't reduce your fluid intake, but see your doctor for a prostate check.
Page created on May 12th, 2003
Page updated on January 16th, 2010