CAUSES OF OSTEOPOROSIS: WEIGHT CONTROL

Be not a twiggy nor a piggy!

Most medical experts agree that being extremely underweight or very overweight is unhealthy. Women who are underweight have osteoporosis more often than overweight women. Remember that weight goals should be individual and personal, determined with your doctor in relation to your existing state of health, your own weight history, and how your weight is proportioned between lean body tissues and fat. Weight charts are being revised upward after many studies have shown that people with average or slightly above average weight live the longest. And weight control is more a permanent way of eating, modifying food habits, rather than quickie diets. (For tables of desirable weights for adults, refer to the booklet Eating for Health, D.H.S.S., from Her Majesty’s Stationery Office.)

Dieting. Are you constantly going on the latest slimming diet or food fad? If you are always dieting – trying to lose those last 5 pounds – you may also be losing bone as well as body fat.

So many people are swayed by diet writers who like to link slimness with beauty, glamour, success and high fashion. The fashion industry has a lot to answer for, in encouraging women to be emaciated and, literally, bone-thin.

Food fads and regimens sweep the country from time to time, promising to take off weight rapidly, with no effort by the dieter; but most have serious drawbacks, limiting food selections, cutting out some essential nutrients, and reducing calcium and vitamins to dangerously low levels. Some diets emphasize individual foods or single food groups, like the banana diet and grapefruit diet, but no food is complete in its nutrition, and if eaten exclusively it can cause other deficiencies.

Low-calorie liquid diets have been popular, but should be undertaken under a doctor’s supervision for a short time only, since they are usually low in potassium and can cause heart abnormalities.

These diets allow large amounts of food to be eaten, but are excessively high in fibre or includes tablespoon of mineral oil or liquid paraffin at each meal; thus the nutrients in food are prevented from being absorbed while passing through the intestine, with the result that vitamins and minerals such as calcium also pass through without absorption into your body.

Diet pills (anorectics), either on prescription or over-the-counter products, that suppress the appetite have been popular as a quick way to lose weight. They generally deaden the sense of taste and the appetite, but at the same time they can increase blood pressure and metabolism. Prescription anorectics are mostly amphetamines or similar drugs, with the side effects of insomnia, nervousness, palpitations, increased pulse rate, higher blood pressure, dry mouth, diarrhoea and depression. Over a length of time you can become addicted to them.

Some women use diuretics as an aid to (temporary) weight-loss, but by increasing urine, these pills also increase loss of calcium.

Few low-calorie diets have the necessary amounts of calcium to maintain bone tissue – and it is especially dangerous for young girls who attempt fasting as they are consuming no calcium at all. Extensive fasting for religious beliefs or extremist political reasons can be equally hazardous.

First ask yourself if you really are overweight. Diet specialists realize that weight control is an interplay between our society’s culture and mass psychology, with personal psychology and physiology. Weight control is based on a simple formula: the number of calories taken in, minus the number of calories expended should equal zero or a minus figure. To lose weight, consume fewer calories with smaller portions (especially fats, sugar and starchy foods, and alcohol), and exercise more to speed metabolism, and actually decrease appetite. Decreasing calories to around 1200 or 1500 a day, choosing foods from the four basic food groups, with some fibre for bulk, plus increasing exercise, can help you lose poundage. Whole food in its naturally unprocessed state is generally lower calorie. But even though calorie-poor, make sure you are calcium-rich, with foods such as skimmed milk, lowfat cheese, yogurt and buttermilk. Discuss calcium supplements with your doctor or a dietician.

Children and teenagers should not go on diets until after their growth period has finished, unless under close medical supervision, as muscles and bone mass are still developing. Similarly, it is not advisable for pregnant women to undertake diets unless under the direction of their personal physician. Most doctors believe the proper weight gain during pregnancy should be between 22 and 35 pounds (10-16kg). It would be better for breast-feeding mothers who are anxious to lose their prenatal weight gain to do so slowly until they have finished breast feeding, otherwise their milk supply will suffer or their own skeletal calcium reserves will be depleted.

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