It’s easy to get swept up in the buzz surrounding a fad diet, but is it safe? Dropping weight too quickly can have consequences, but as this article explains, the dangers of fad diets may be more severe and especially harmful to seniors.
Obesity in the elderly has been in the news recently, especially as researchers review the link between heart disease and weight. While studies continue to turn out new information, one thing that doesn’t change is the idea that caring for health of seniors includes helping them watch their waistline, and do so in a healthy, proven way.
The Dangers of Fad Diets
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reports that each fad diet - such as those that make claims that are too good to be true, promote unlimited quantities of particular foods, or severely restrict certain food groups - comes with its own set of specific dangers. One of the biggest is dropping weight too quickly.
While dropping weight dramatically is unsafe for anyone at any age, when seniors crash diet, the consequences become more severe. Older adults have different health needs to stay fit, none of which are supported by fad diets. It is best for the fitness of every senior to simply steer clear of any diet that promises to drop weight quickly.
“The golden years are definitely not the time for extreme diets or drastic weight loss. Your goal should be to eat better while eating less. Fad diets frequently eliminate entire food groups, which can lead to serious nutrient gaps. Rapid weight loss often leads to a loss of lean body mass, exactly the opposite of what older people need for good health.”
-The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
What Happens When Weight Drops Too Quickly?
Simply put, weight loss that happens too fast also breaks down the body too fast, causing unnecessary health issues.
Dr. Hollingsworth, a top New York City surgeon, reports that fast weight loss puts too much pressure on the intestines, causing stomach issues. The intestines grow used to handling a certain amount of food, and must adjust slowly to any diet change. When a change in volume or type of food is thrust upon this area, it reacts negatively, causing diarrhea, constipation, or other stomach issues.
Intestinal issues like diarrhea zap water from the body, which can affect the circulatory system and create possible heart problems.
Further, the body reacts to protect itself against the rapid weight loss, grabbing whatever fat stores are available, and breaking down muscle if there is no fat to use for energy. Some seniors already have reduced muscle strength; fad diets only add to the problem.
Nutrients Are Lost To Fad Diets
Rapid weight loss also robs the body of the essential nutrients that many seniors need for overall health.
The range of nutrients necessary for seniors varies by person, but in general, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics deems the following nutrients essential for all seniors: calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, fiber, potassium, and healthy fats (these include polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats).
When these nutrients are lost to rapid, sudden weight loss, seniors are also robbed of their important benefits, such as sustaining healthy nerve function, maintaining bone density, and preventing osteoporosis.
Encouraging Healthy Weight Loss for Seniors
When a senior wants to lose weight, the best way to do so is the best way for any age: avoid the dangers of fad diets and focus on healthy eating and exercise. Dr. Hollingsworth recommends losing up to 10 percent of overall body weight over three months’ time.
This is a slow process, but it gives the body time to adjust. It also helps the body properly use the essential nutrients mentioned above, instead of losing them to the side effects of rapid weight loss. Staying away from fad diets, and working with your doctor to determine the right exercise and approach to eating that will help you achieve a healthier lifestyle, will be the most beneficial and for a longer period of time.
Losing Weight for Seniors: Easier With Support
Losing weight requires a support system. If you’re a senior looking to lose weight, seek out support. If you’re a family member, caregiver, friend, or doctor of a senior who needs to lose weight, being available to guide and encourage them to eat healthy and stay active is one of the best ways you can help them achieve weight loss. And if you’re a member of CareSync, remember that you can ask your Health Assistant to help you locate community-based resources that can assist with healthy eating, nutrition education, and weight loss.