Newsletter 09, July 2007
This issue of the Good Diet Good Health Newsletter includes...
- Anorexia - the crucial role of protein, tryptophan, zinc and vitamin B
- In the news - our cats and dogs are overweight, too!
- Did you know?
- Your successes, requests and questions
- Tell us what you think
- Visit our newsletter archive
1) Anorexia - The Crucial Role Of Protein, Tryptophan, Zinc And Vitamin B
Anorexia is often seen as an illness of teenage girls, but the problem can affect boys, too, and children of pre-teenage years. If you have a family member or friend who is affected by anorexia, you'll know that it is a far more complex problem than just a slimming diet that has gone too far. For many sufferers, getting back to a healthy weight and way of eating takes years of struggle and heartache, both for themselves and the people around them. Sadly, some never make it back to health, despite the best efforts of the medical profession.
But now there is real hope on the horizon. The cause of difficult-to-change aspects of anorexia such as lack of desire to eat and altered perception of body shape had previously been seen as purely psychological. Now researchers have discovered that, whatever the initial reasons for an individual to have dieted beyond a healthy weight, significant chemical changes take place in the brain once anorexia sets in. Julia Ross in her book 'The Diet Cure - the 8-step programme to rebalance your body chemistry, end food cravings, weight problems and mood swings - NOW!' explains how it works:
Serotonin, one of the brain's four key mood regulators, is made from the amino acid L-tryptophan. Few foods contain high amounts of this amino acid, and the serotonin level can drop too low within seven hours of tryptophan depletion. When levels drop, this can cause feelings of depression and low self-esteem. It can also cause obsessive thoughts or behaviours, such as excessive calorie-counting or purging.
As the individual's food intake and / or nutrient absorption falls, their zinc and B vitamin levels drop as well. This causes appetite to be lost. Once the individual is eating very little at all, 'feel-good' chemicals called endorphins are released. This is thought to be a mechanism dating back to our evolutionary past to keep us from feeling hungry when faced with starvation. Unfortunately, its effect on our individual is to produce an 'anorexic high' which keeps him or her addicted to not eating. As Julia says, 'This can be the perfect biochemical setup for bulimia or anorexia.'
Julia's experience with her patients is that supplementation with the missing nutrients and amino-acids breaks this vicious circle and enables the sufferer to become well where psychological approaches have not worked. Unfortunately this nutritional approach is as yet poorly recognized within mainstream medicine. But practitioners of it do exist and finding out more about it may well be the step that finally helps the sufferer back onto the road to recovery.
Of course, not all very thin people are anorexic. But many parents today worry that the constant preoccupation of the media and fashion industry with slimness puts their children at risk of anorexia. Apart from trying to instil in their children healthier ideas about the ideal body shape and eating proper meals, what can they do? Well, following on from the experiences of Julia Ross and others, a crucial step would seem to be to protect children from the biochemical brain changes which characterize anorexia by ensuring they have adequate protein and micronutrients such as vitamin B1 and zinc in their diet. It seems likely that those who are most exposed to the risk are junk food or sparse eaters who may be deficient in crucial nutrients, and 'vegetarians' who simply exclude meat and other animal protein from their diet without thought of how they will replace it with other sources of protein.
2) The News - Our Cats And Dogs Are Overweight, Too!
A study published in the April issue of the American Journal of Veterinary Research reported that 30 per cent of dogs in the US are overweight or obese. Previous studies had found that the same is true for cats.
In the UK, the situation is even worse, with an estimated 30 to 60 per cent of all dogs and cats overweight.
So it seems that obesity in our pets is becoming as big a problem as obesity in humans. Vets advise that pets have a heightened risk of suffering from diabetes, heart and joint problems when they become overweight, just like we do.
Similar to humans, overweight in pets can be blamed partly on genes and partly on the environment. In the case of our pets, though, it seems it is mostly environment. In other words, we pamper our pets too much, feed them the wrong foods, give them snacks and treats they don't need, and fail to exercise them enough. We're killing them with kindness.
Is this really what we want for our pets?
Perhaps the most crucial thing for us to consider is that dogs and cats are carnivores. Their natural diet is mainly meat. If that's not the main constituent of the food you give your dog or cat, and your pet is overweight, then that may be something to bear in mind. Check the ingredients of your pet's tinned food or dry biscuits. If these foods are high in grains instead of meat, stop buying them! If you're not convinced that a high grain diet may be contributing to your pet's obesity, then consider this: grain is given to farm animals to fatten them up for market, not because it is their natural diet but because farmers have long known that it is the cheapest and most effective way to get them fat fast.
3) Did you know?
Did you know that ...
- ... Regular stretching helps reduce muscle soreness, especially when you've had a prior injury. It may also enhance the strength gains you achieve when you work out.
- ... Tight muscles can make you prone to problems as they can alter your posture, hinder your movement and noticeably limit your range of motion.
- ... It was originally thought that you should stretch before as well as after exercise. Experts now know that stretching before exercise will not protect you against injury. When muscles are warm, as they are after a workout, they are soft and pliable. But when they are cold, they have less give and trying to stretch or lengthen them in this state can lead to injury.
- ... It takes about four weeks of stretching on three non-consecutive days of the week to gain flexibility. But once you've got it, it takes little time and effort to maintain it.
- ... A quick way to test the flexibility of your hamstrings (the large muscles at the back of your thighs) is to lie on your back and with your legs straight, lift one as high as you can without bending. If your leg forms a 70 degree angle or less with the floor, your flexibility is not optimal. A 90 degree angle (ie your leg is pointing straight upwards) is ideal.
4) Your successes, requests and questions
This is your spot. Whether it's your dietary success story, a request to cover a particular topic in a future newsletter or a question you would like answered, we would love to hear from you. Please do contact us.
Here is a question we answered recently:
- Q How do I know my specific daily carb allowance on my diet?
- A This depends on the diet that you're aiming to follow. Are you following the Atkins Diet? In my opinion, this is the best one, because it recognises that everyone is an individual, and has their own level of tolerance for carbs. The idea with the Atkins Diet is that you start with a very low level - 20g per day - which is about enough to allow you some cooked vegetables at one meal and salad vegetables or leaves at a second meal per day in addition to your meat, fish, cheese and eggs etc. You stay at this level for 2 weeks before starting to increase your level of carbs by 5g increments. If you continue to lose weight, you can continue to increase the carbs. When you are no longer losing weight, you know you've reached your own personal critical carb level (which is what I assume you mean by the 'specific daily carb allowance' of your question).
You may find the following resources useful:
5) Tell Us What You Think
Your opinions matter to us. If there is something you particularly like or don't like about our newsletter or website, please let us know.
6) Visit Our Newsletter Archive
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With best wishes for your continued good health
Founder Director, Good Diet Good Health.com
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