By now, we all know that extreme diets are bad ju-ju. Not only do they foster an unhealthy relationship with food, they can also backfire by damaging your metabolism and making it harder to lose weight later down the track. But new research shows that crash dieting may be even worse for our health when we originally thought.
According to a study from the University of Oxford, obese people who suddenly lower their intake to 600 to 800 calories per day can experience heart-fat level increases of 44% in as little as a week.
Despite dieters losing 6% on average of their total body fat, this fat is released into their bloodstream and absorbed by their hearts, lead researcher Dr Jennifer Rayner explained. This can lead to breathlessness and an irregular heartbeat in people with pre-existing heart conditions.
“Crash diets, also called meal replacement programmes, have become increasingly fashionable in the past few years.The heart muscle prefers to choose between fat or sugar as fuel and being swamped by fat worsens its function. If you have heart problems, you need to check with your doctor before embarking on a very low-calorie diet or fasting. People with a cardiac problem could well experience more symptoms at this early time point, so the diet should be supervised. Otherwise healthy people may not notice the change in heart function in the early stage.”- Dr Jennifer Rayner
On a more positive note, the study revealed that a week of intermittent fasting led to an 11% decrease in the abdominal fat around the major organs and a 42% reduction in liver fat. These changes can lead to improved cholesterol and blood pressure levels, as well as lower insulin resistance, which helps protect against type 2 diabetes.
At the end of the day, intermittent fasting has both its health benefits and risks. As with any diet or lifestyle change, you should seek the guidance of a healthcare professional before starting.
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