Diet product dangers

Dieting is a huge money-making industry that has many tempting offers. There are magic pills and super shakes, all claiming to help you lose weight with the minimum effort, and diet books top the bestseller list.

Yet the only things we seem to lose are money and our health and the escalation of eating disorders, depression and sugar diabetes can be directly attributed to incorrect diet.

Magic pill or evil potion?
As any reputable doctor will tell you, the only effective way to lose weight is following a healthy eating plan and exercise programme. Yet, there are many products on the market claiming that they will make you thin overnight and you don't have to lift a finger, let alone a weight or two. We asked a number of experts to comment on some of these products.

Ephedrine is used by some body builders to burn calories. It is available as Norpseudoephedrine HCL and is found in many dietary preparations. Ephedrine is a powerful central-nervous-system stimulant, and an overdose causes high blood pressure and excited behaviour. According to a representative of the Pharmaceutical Society, the drug is commonly abused. You lose weight, but it comes back as soon as you stop taking the tablets.

Prozac targets the brain chemical serotonin. It is normally prescribed for people who suffer from clinical depression, but it is sometimes abused by desperate dieters. Serotonin's job is to tell us when we are satisfied, and consequently Prozac has been prescribed for eating disorders such as bulimia and obesity. This drug can have dangerous side effects and should not be used for dieting purposes.

Serotonin is the same brain chemical that LSD, PCP and other psychedelic drugs mimic in order to produce their hallucinogenic effects. In the opinion of Sunette More, director of the International Lifestyle Clinic (ILC), "Antidepressants such as Prozac are sometimes prescribed unnecessarily as a quick fix. Although this drug affects serotonin levels chemically, a healthy lifestyle can do that too. People also become reliant on chemicals that have dangerous side effects. We at ILC are totally opposed to anything chemical, unless there is a real clinical need for it."

Diuretics make the user lose water, not fat. Overweight people have less body water than people of normal weight. Weight loss will last only half a day and the price you pay is dehydration, which has health ramifications of its own.

Amphetamines temporarily suppress the appetite but can cause dangerous dependency. Patrick Holford, the famous UK-based nutritionist and author of many books on lifestyle changes and diet, says one should avoid all magic pills, like those that stop your body from digesting sugar, alcohol and carbohydrates, and 'fat magnets' that stop fat digestion. These are dangerous if they work, because they will block the body's ability to absorb essential fats, which are already deficient in most slimmers' diets.

Diet shakes contain natural vitamins and proteins. They are used as meal replacements, but can have a negative effect on your metabolism because your body experiences the feast/ famine syndrome. If you live on diet shakes only, your body will go into famine mode, which means that your metabolism will slow down and your body will try to store fat. Even if you lose weight, it will all come back as soon as you eat normally again.

Sunette More says, "We at ILC are not in favour of meal replacements. You may get the nutrients, but as soon as you go back to your old way of eating, the kilos will return. These meal replacements do not allow the body to correct the imbalance that created the problem in the first place. In fact, in many cases it aggravates this imbalance, leading to rapid weight gain when normal eating is resumed."

Have you tried any diet short cuts? Share your experience in the comment box below

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