Strict Dieting Could Increase Risk for Heart Disease and Diabetes
A new study by California University in San Francisco and Minnesota University, published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, has found that going on a strict diet could increase the risk of developing deadly conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, regardless if the weight loss was successful.
Researchers evaluated 121 women put on a standard 1200 calorie-a-day diet. Over the course of three weeks, each woman kept a food-and-mood journal, in which they wrote down everything they ate and how they felt during the dieting period. Each woman provided a saliva sample both before and after the study period to assess levels of the stress hormone cortisol. When a person restricts calories to a level below what the body needs, higher levels of cortisol are produced.
Cortisol is important in the body for regulating functions such as glucose metabolism and the inflammatory process, however prolonged exposure to high levels can lead to higher blood pressure, suppressed thyroid function, lowered immunity, and increased abdominal fat – all of which contribute to chronic disease states such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Dieting is also damaging mentally, because of the feelings of deprivation and increased effort to continually monitor what was eaten. Very low calorie diets have also been shown to contribute to depression. A study from Emory University published in the 2008 journal Physiology and Behavior found that psychological stress from dieting eventually led to relapse and overeating.
According to the American Heart Association, the key to a healthy heart is lifestyle, not strict diet. Most people can effectively lose weight and reduce their risk factors for many chronic conditions, including heart disease, with a combination of a healthful diet that moderately restricts calories and increasing physical activity.
The AHA offers the following as practical tips to reduce the risk of both heart disease and obesity:
• Learn how many calories you need each day and balance calories consumed with calories burned.
• Be informed of your other risk factors as well – including BMI, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and fasting glucose levels – and make efforts to bring these within normal limits.
• Eat a healthy overall diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Avoid saturated fats, trans fats, and sugar. Lower the amount of sodium consumed.
• Get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day; sixty minutes may be preferable for those who are trying to lose weight. Cut back on the amount of time spent in sedentary activities.