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Trendy diets are leading to dangerous disorders

Jan 1, 2019 | 5 min read
Trendy diets are leading to dangerous disorders

Nutritionists are warning against serious nutritional deficiencies and irreversible illnesses brought about by trendy diets publicized on social media.

It so easy to be influenced by the latest fads when you see them pop up on your social media channels and unfortunately this means that many people are putting their health at serious risk by following trendy diets they see online.

Dr Laura Wyness, a registered independent nutritionist says:

"It seems to be in human nature to take health advice o the extreme. When people start putting strict rules and regulations on themselves and cutting out all, one or several food groups - whether it be meat, fish, dairy or grains - the diets become dangerous."

"Diets like this create an obsession with what you're eating, which is how eating disorders often begin."

Iron

Recorded cases of iron deficiencies is on the up, especially among young women who have stopped eating meat.

Symptoms of iron deficiency include low energy, breathlessness and even heart palpitations. If you are vegan or vegetarian it's important to eat lots of dark green leafy vegetables, beans, peas, lentils, seeds, nuts and dried fruit. However you do need to be aware that you cannot swap out a portion of meat for these sorts of foods because your body doesn't absorb as much iron from vegetables as it does from meat - 15% compared to 40%.

It is also important to be aware of the fact that the tannin in tea inhibits the uptake of iron into our bodies so try and avoid these drinks within 30 minutes of eating iron-filled foods.

Calcium

A very worrying deficiency on the rise is calcium, which is coinciding with the increasing popularity of dairy free diets.

It is particularly worrying because the detrimental effects are not seen until much later in life. Calcium is vital in your twenties and thirties for building strong bones and if you don't get enough then it could result in bone related problems in old age such as osteoporosis and arthritis.

Vegetarian and vegan sources of calcium include green leafy vegetables like kale and broccoli, watercress, dried fruits, wholegrains and pulses.

Iodine

Secondary to calcium deficiency comes an iodine deficiency and this because the majority of our iodine comes from the dairy we consume. When people cut out dairy they risk becoming iodine deficient and this in turn means their body cannot make enough thyroid hormone. 

Symptoms of iodine deficiency include feeling cold when other people don't, constipation, fatigue, muscle weakness, joint or muscle pain, depression and dry skin.

It's important to be aware that while dairy-free milk alternatives are often fortified with calcium they are not fortified with iodine. A good source of iodine if you would like to supplement your diet is Sea Kelp capsules.

B12

Meat and diary are the only sources of dietary B12, you can get some from yeast extracts like Marmite as well as from fortified cereals and dairy milk alternatives but probably not in sufficient quantities. Therefore if you're following a vegetarian or vegan diet a B12 supplement is highly recommended.

Symptoms of B12 deficiency include feelings of fatigue, shortness of breath, a sore tongue, mouth ulcers, pins and needles and pale skin.

Zinc

There are a few plant sources of zinc including wholegrains and beans but our bodies do not absorb it as well from this source as it would from meat. This is because the phytates in the foods bind to certain dietary minerals including iron, zinc, manganese and calcium thereby slowing their absorption into our systems.

If you are going to eat food such as chickpeas, lentils, tofu, pumpkin seeds, cashew nuts, walnuts, chia seeds and quinoa then try soaking them before cooking as this will help remove the phytates and increase the nutrients absorbed.

Omega-3

Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial to heart, brain and eye health and the best source is fish - really there isn't another source that is as good. You can find omega-3's in flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, hemp seeds and rapeseed oil but they are in a form that needs to be converted by the body into beneficial long chain EPA and DHA. This is something that our bodies are not very good at doing.

The issue a lot of people are facing by consuming a westernised diet is an imbalance of omega-3's and omega-6's - we get too much of the latter and not enough of the former.

The ideal balance of omega-6 to omega-3 is 4:1, with scientists believing that omega-6's are pro-inflammatory and omega-3's being anti-inflammatory. While inflammation is vital to survival as it helps the body fight infection and injury it also causes severe damage and leads to disease when excessive.

It's difficult to know if you're omega-3 deficient but if you know you're not eating enough oily fish in your diet then it's highly recommended that you take an omega-3 supplement.

Fibre

Another massive diet trend we have seen of late is the gluten free diet. This involves cutting out bread, pasta, cereals and other carbohydrates. People have a tendency to think of gluten free as healthier but this is not always the case. IN fact gluten free diets have been found to be lower in calcium, iron, folate, thiamine, niacin and B12.

Wyness comments:

"Many people are choosing to go gluten free even though they aren't coeliac, just because they think it's healthier, but these people are risking becoming fibre deficient which has a major impact on our health. A gluten free diet has been linked to a reduction in beneficial gut bacteria so ensuring you have adequate fibre is key. Fibre also helps to keep us full and therefore people who eat plenty of fibre, tend to eat less fat."

"However, there are a variety of gluten free fibre options such as fruit, vegetables,m beans, legumes, and gluten free grain such as buckwheat, quinoa and millet."

"Gluten free food are sometimes higher in sugars or fats as these are often added to compensate for the lack of gluten to ensure the product retains a good texture and mouthfeel."

Is there a healthy on-trend diet?

The old adage "everything in moderation" stands firm and therefore the most healthy on-trend diet out there would be the Mediterranean diet or similar. This diet allows you to enjoy all food groups in a balanced way.

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