Why is a restrictive weight-loss diet dangerous to health?

Jack Weather

Slimming diets are extremely popular. Most women reach for them at different stages of their lives. In addition to the real chance of losing weight quickly, many diets, especially the restrictive ones, carry serious health risks. The yo-yo effect may turn out to be the least of the problems once the weight-loss diet has been stopped.


Yo-yo effect

Healthy weight loss presupposes the supply of all the nutrients necessary for the body to function properly. Calorie restriction should be adapted to life activity, age and health. It is recommended to reduce calories by about 500 kcal in relation to daily requirements. Weight loss should be gradual, about 0.5 to 1 kg per week. Using a slimming diet must not cause any deterioration in health and well-being. Meals must be eaten regularly - preferably 4 to 5 small meals per day. It is also important to remember about adequate hydration of the body - at least two litres of liquids a day - especially water and green, fruit or herbal tea.

However, when rapid weight loss is important, many people use restrictive methods, the results of which are spectacular at first sight. Such weight-loss diets are based on a significant reduction in the supply of calories - often below 1000 - and on the exclusion of most recommended foods from the menu (for example, diets based solely on high-protein meals). Rapid weight loss can then prove detrimental to health, and the consequences of such actions will be visible for a long time to come.

Can a restrictive diet do harm?

Significant reduction of calories and variety of meals makes the diet poor in vitamins, minerals, iron or fibre. This leads to the following symptoms, among others:

  • hair loss
  • nail brittleness
  • fatigue, weakened concentration, sleepiness
  • skin problems
  • weakened immunity, and therefore more frequent incidence of infections
  • no menstruation

Thanks to fibre, which is found in large quantities in bran, cereal products obtained from whole grain, vegetables (especially legume seeds, cabbage) and fruit, peristalsis is improved and cholesterol concentration in blood is reduced. In addition, consumption of products rich in fibre evokes a feeling of satiety, which prevents snacking. However, when using restrictive diets the amount of fibre is often too low. This leads to persistent constipation and even serious digestive diseases such as diverticulosis and colorectal cancers or rectal bleeding nodules.

Anaemia as a consequence of dietary restrictions

Too little supply of iron and vitamin B12 in the case of an unbalanced vegan or vegetarian diet and folic acid in shortages of fresh food, especially green vegetables, can lead to anaemia. This is a reduction in blood levels of haemoglobin and erythrocytes (red blood cells) below the norm. The result is weakness, impaired concentration and attention, rapid fatigue, pains and dizziness, dyspnea, pallor of the skin and mucous membranes and accelerated heartbeat (tachycardia).

When pregnant women use a diet poor in folic acid (especially during the first twelve weeks of pregnancy), the risk of nerve tube defects in children (cerebral and spinal hernias, brainlessness) increases significantly.

Restrictive diet and eating disorders

In order to achieve a perfect figure, patients often resort to diets whose calorific value is too limited. This results in rapid and significant weight loss. However, when the body weight is too low (at least 15% below normal at a given age and height) and a person who is still losing weight considers himself or herself obese, a dietary disorder such as anorexia may be suspected. The incidence of mental anorexia among women between the ages of 15 and 29 is 19 per 100000 women. The consequence of this disease is cachexia, endocrine disorders (including lack of menstruation), fainting, headaches and dizziness, serious, general cachexia.

When, instead of reducing food intake, there are episodes of eating huge amounts of food in a short time and then trying to expel it by provoking vomiting or using laxatives, one suspects bulimia. It is also an eating disorder with a morbid fear of gaining weight. People with low self-esteem, family problems or alcohol dependence are more likely to suffer from this condition.

How to deal with the harmful effects of a restrictive diet?

In the case of anaemia, iron deficiency supplementation is necessary. Similarly, in the case of avitaminosis, vitamin deficiencies should be supplemented in the form of appropriate preparations for women.

Eating disorders require comprehensive treatment, including psychotherapy, pharmacotherapy and realimentation, i.e. a gradual increase in body weight.

In order to avoid serious gastrointestinal disorders, it is necessary to increase the amount of fibre in the diet. The regularity of meals is extremely important. Starving is always dangerous to health.

It should always be remembered that a restrictive diet in the long term is harmful to health, and only a balanced diet under the control of a dietitian and doctor can achieve your dream figure without losing health and well-being.

Tags: effect, restrictive diet, weight loss diet, yo-yo

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