Women in EP consume more low calorie foods |
Saudi Gazette - 21 June, 2012
Women in the Eastern Province ranked highest in the Kingdom for their consumption of low calorie and diet foods, according to a recent study conducted by the King Faisal University.
Hamida Al-Zuheir, dietician and director of the nutrition department at Saad Specialist Hospital in Al-Khobar, explained that according to the study women in the Eastern Province are more concerned about their weight and keen on following a low calorie diet than women in other regions of the Kingdom.
However, health experts say there is a downside to consuming low calorie foods as they are not very helpful in losing weight. Many women are falling into the trap of consuming food which are labelled as diet food, low calorie or low fat, without being aware of their side effects on health.
“When the average consumer is shopping and reads the label low calorie or low fat, he or she mistakenly believes that eating large portions of these supposedly healthy foods will not lead to weight gain. Although the product may be lower in calories, overeating will still result in weight gain, but many people think that since the food is low in calories, they can eat as much of it as they please,” said Al-Zuheir.
“The reason why dieters binge on low calorie foods is that our bodies are created by Allah with an inbuilt system of hunger and satiation levels to perfectly balance our caloric intake with the energy needs of our bodies, depending on each person’s age, gender, and activity level,” Al-Zuheir said.
“Unhealthy lifestyle practices play a role in disrupting this balance which in turn leads to weight gain,” she added.
Al-Zuheir said low calorie or diet foods are unnatural and are replaced with chemical compounds that may cause undesirable side effects. Ingredients found in these products are aspartame, saccharin, and hydrogenated fats that interfere with the body’s signal that makes you feel satiated and full.
In fact, eating these foods intensify cravings and urge you to eat more. Relying on diet foods and diet beverages actually thwart your weight loss efforts because a good nutritional program should promote eating less not more, Al-Zuheir explained.
Many studies have revealed that prolonged use of diet products can cause a build-up of chemicals in the body such as aspartame, and over time these chemicals can have a negative impact on the body.
Side effects related to toxicity from aspartame and other artificial sweeteners include headaches, dizziness, abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, an unpleasant aftertaste in the mouth, irritability, anxiety, an aggravation of premenstrual syndrome symptoms, and skin irritation.
Some studies also show that high levels of aspartame can overexcite nerve cells in the brain to the extent of damaging them, which can lead to memory loss.
“Advertising promotions of diet foods play with the emotions of women and trick them into thinking that these products are healthier and that over indulging in them will not cause weight gain. The names of some products are misleading and send inaccurate messages to the consumer such as light nuts or weight loss biscuits or sugarless juice and they are outrageously priced to profit from women who are desperate to lose weight,” said Al-Zuheir.
The dietitian’s advice is to read the list of ingredients on the product, and not select products based on colorful, promotional messages written on the package. Natural foods are healthier than preservatives and low calorie foods. For example, an apple is richer in vitamins and minerals, lower in calories, free of preservatives and artificial flavoring. It is much healthier than apple juice, apple sauce, or an apple and grains diet bar.
The key to successfully losing weight and keeping fit is regular physical exercise. Experts recommend picking an activity that one likes, such as basketball, swimming, jogging, walking, soccer, horse riding, ballet among others, and incorporating it in their weekly if not daily schedule.