PETALING JAYA: One big change the Covid-19 crisis has brought is in people’s eating habits.
The increase in the consumption of unhealthy food, a new lifestyle that has even acquired its own moniker – pandemic eating – has health experts and dieticians worried.
Even those who are into healthy eating may be heading for disaster.
Doctors and dieticians agree that healthy eating is not what it is made out to be.
There are many such healthy diets on the menu these days – from ketogenic and juicing to intermittent fasting and superfoods – whose contribution to improved wellbeing has been praised and criticised in equal measure.
The ketogenic, or simply “Keto” diet, seems to be the most popular today. Data from Google shows that there have been 25.4 million searches on the low-carbohydrate, high fat diet so far this year.
Intermittent fasting (a pattern that involves a cycle of fasting and eating) is second, with 11.7 million searches to date.
Prof Dr Amin Ismail, a nutrition expert at Universiti Putra Malaysia, attributes the marked increase in these new eating habits to a new desire among the young to look lean and slim.
“And it is the media that is driving this craze,” he told theSun.
“Studies have shown that many magazines promote weight loss programmes that may prove unhealthy, and their target audience are young girls who want to look thin like models.”
Amin said eating nutrient dense foods while balancing energy intake through physical activity is equally essential to maintain a healthy weight.
University of Malaya Specialist Centre clinical dietitian and head of dietetic services Rozanna M. Rosly said studies have shown that both Keto and superfood diets have proven effective for weight loss alongside improvements in cholesterol, blood sugar and insulin levels.
“However, there are other factors to consider. Both diets showed effective weight loss in the short term, but they are not necessarily more effective than a conventional daily calorie restricted diet,” she said.
People often struggle during the fasting days and when they have prolonged fasting periods, it creates a risk of overeating and may foster unhealthy behaviours, she added.
Rozanna said the Keto diet may cause symptoms such constipation, hunger, fatigue, “low moods”, irritability and headaches. Some Keto dieters even reported trouble sleeping.
“There are also concerns in the long term of an increased risk of kidney stones, osteoporosis and increased levels of uric acid in the blood (a risk factor for gout) as well as nutrient deficiencies such as vitamins and minerals,” she said.
A 2017 review has also shown that detoxes, including juicing, may lead to weight loss initially but tends to lead to weight gain once a person resumes a normal diet.