Low-calorie diet

Low-calorie diet

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What is that

The low-calorie diet is a diet that provides a daily caloric / energy intake lower than that required by the body throughout the day.
To the eye of a professional, this definition could seem reductive or only partially acceptable; in fact, the characteristics and requirements of a good low-calorie diet are much more numerous, but, strictly speaking, the etymology of the term is nothing short of essential, that is:

  • diet: dietary rules or controlled diet, the result of a therapeutic indication; from the Greek "dìaita" which means "lifestyle"
  • hypo-: diminutive particle
  • caloric: which has or provides calories / energy.

Who prescribes it

The low-calorie diet is a food therapy; "therapy" means "cure" or "cure" and this means that the application of the diet includes at least two discriminants:

  • MUST be prescribed / evaluated / structured and followed by a qualified professional (dietician, biologist specialized in nutrition or dietician) - legislative details are referred to other readings;
  • IT MUST ONLY be used in case of need; as if it were a "pharmacological cycle", the low-calorie diet does NOT benefit healthy people in normal weight and / or without alterations in the metabolism that make it justifiable.

The low-calorie diet should exclude any aesthetic purpose, since its prolonged use (considered as such over 6-8 months) involves evident stress for the subject, both physically and psychologically; although, of course, low calorie diets are not all the same.
On the other hand, despite the existence of a regulation of ethical - professional protection, many pseudo - professionals engage in the unofficial prescription and composition of the low-calorie diet, ignoring or circumventing the regulations in force. Some of the most frequent "gabules" are:

  • The transcription of a low-calorie diet without quantity (legally granted to personal trainers) whose portions are specified "verbally";
  • Printing (by typing or computer) of the low-calorie diet WITHOUT an authentication signature (in order to avoid traceability or legal dispute);
  • The composition of a dietary regimen then authenticated by a licensed professional and ethically INCORRECT.

Trendy diets and false beliefs

All against the low-calorie diet

The incorrect application and the extremeization of the low-calorie diet in the last half century have led to a collective rejection of energy restriction.
Today we talk more and more about the metabolic destination of nutrients, the abandonment of caloric estimation, the return to the ancestral diet, the exploitation of hormonal cycles, the increase in metabolism, acid-base balance, ying and yang energies, nutrigenic, nutrigenomics etc. Moreover, according to certain currents of thought, the low-calorie diet is bad, does not make you lose weight and lowers the metabolism! We are not discussing why or whereby these statements are incorrect, approximate and indifferent, and we refer again to other related articles.
The curious aspect is that, most of the time (but not always), these are concepts with foundations of great truth but unfortunately distorted or incorrectly applied / disclosed. Moreover, certain statements absolutely do not take into account the fact that conventional diet therapy provides for a constant updating of experimental and statistical research in the medical-nutritional field; this means that professionals should always be well updated and aware of the various "news" (subject to individual professionalism).
Some people wash their hands completely and affirm: "calories are an outdated, useless, misleading concept; it is necessary to CONSUME only the foods that (for one reason or another) we are led to metabolize correctly." From here then follows the delirium; those who completely abolish milk and derivatives, those of cereals and legumes (including derivatives), those of fresh fruit, etc. It is also necessary to specify that, at times, there is good and right awareness, such as the abandonment of artificial foods, nerve drinks, sugar, salt and added fats, etc. It is curious to note how precisely these attitudes, born in opposition to food restriction, if applied in parallel go to constitute NOT ONLY a real low-calorie diet (and even "tough" ones!), But also a diet that excludes 50% of the food available. In the face of freedom and disengagement! Obviously they make you lose weight, God forbid! Analyzing the complex with the eyes of a professional, abolishing: oil and butter, all packaged or canned foods, cereals, legumes, milk, cheeses and fatty meats, and almost all fruit, would remain only: lean meat and fish, eggs, vegetables and dried fruit. In practice, a high-protein, potentially ketogenic and necessarily low-calorie diet (unless abnormal portions are used). Probably, by reading up on the potential risks of a similar LONG-TERM diet, the reader will understand how far these strategies can be from the requirements of healthiness and nutritional education.
We also remind you that, taking advantage of the traditional dietary system (the one so rejected by the new "gurus" of nutrition) for an overall energy estimate, there is NO calorie-counting weight loss diet that is not, in reality, a low-calorie diet cleverly disguised as semi-freedom. food.
I believe that, having said that, there is no need to add anything else.

When to use it

When is the low calorie diet necessary? What are its application implications?

As anticipated, the low-calorie diet is a therapy.

The "primary" use of this diet is aimed at slimming, that is to say the reduction of fat mass and abdominal circumference, therefore of the body mass index (BMI / BMI). It is well known how overweight and even worse obesity are related to the onset of metabolic diseases, primary and secondary, of an environmental and / or hereditary nature; some examples are:

  • dyslipidemia (high TOT and / or LDL cholesterol, high triglycerides, both)
  • hyperglycemia or type 2 diabetes mellitus
  • hypertension
  • hyperuricemia and / or gout;
  • more than one and concomitants define the so-called "metabolic syndrome".

Diseases of the metabolism present a series of complications and negative implications on the organism, which worsen the quality of life, increase the risk of death or permanent disability and significantly increase public health expenditure; some complications and negative implications are: alterations in microcirculation, vision, peripheral nervous system, function of some organs (especially kidneys, liver and heart), systemic inflammation, atherosclerosis, therefore increased cardiovascular risk (ischemic heart disease and cerebral vascular syndrome ). There is no lack of joint and ligament disorders.
The low-calorie diet, in addition to reducing overweight - indirectly lowering both the risk of onset and the severity of metabolic diseases - also has a DIRECT effect on physiological parameters (e.g. blood and haemodynamic parameters) as indicators of the state of health. This means that the low-calorie diet, being BALANCED, is able to reduce LDL and total cholesterol (sometimes to increase HDL), triglycerides, blood sugar, blood pressure, uricaemia and to improve other blood indices such as systemic inflammation parameters; all this even apart from weight loss. Ultimately, the low-calorie diet is a food therapy that is applied ONLY to overweight subjects, in order to improve quality and life expectancy (reducing the risk of unfortunate events) through the reduction of fat mass (especially hoping for the visceral one) and the restoration of optimal physiological parameters. Motor therapy and, ONLY if necessary, pharmacological therapy should also be associated with the low-calorie diet.

How to structure it

Low-calorie diet: a real headache

Certainly readers have already wondered what are the reasons that support the discrimination between a qualified professional and an improvised self-taught person. From a technical and methodological point of view, nowadays, information technology works miracles; it is therefore possible to obtain a low-calorie diet by means of automation and in just a few minutes. To make a fitting comparison, one might wonder why there are no AUTONOMOUS "musical composition" machines; in all fields, the automaton can replace man only in calculation, but not in reasoning.
Let's say that the low-calorie diet looks a lot like a "puzzle" or the famous "tetris" video game (please allow me the two not very "specialized" similarities), whose pieces or segments represent: physical characteristics, therapeutic needs, habits and lifestyle , propensity, availability and willpower of the subject. Furthermore, each piece or segment is further structured and defined by many other mathematical evaluations and equations. Wanting to be meticulous, even at this level it would be possible to automate the method; it is sufficient to assign a value included in a numerical scale to each evaluation parameter. A bit like it is done for the estimation of vascular risk. So why not?
Simple. The answer is that: "the first goal of the nutritional therapist who prescribes a low-calorie diet is that it is APPLIED and FOLLOWED correctly"; in one word: "compliance". Compliance with the low-calorie diet is always the result (or compromise, depending on the point of view) of an abstract formula NOT mathematically evaluable, whose variables are:

  1. Patient-operator relationship (trust, honesty, empathy, dialogue skills, listening and understanding skills, communicativeness, intuition, cunning, ability to induce motivation, etc.)
  2. Accuracy and precision of the method
  3. Personalization.

What has just been described does not represent a free complication; just think about the fact that:

  • It would be useless to gain the patient's confidence and motivation and then lose it by assigning an ineffective or impractical low-calorie diet;
  • It would be useless to provide a technically perfect low-calorie diet if the patient is not motivated or if he refuses the foods that structure it out of disgust;
  • It would be useless to prescribe a low-calorie diet consisting of all the most popular foods but which ultimately prove to be ineffective or which, although totally perfect, cannot enjoy the right motivation / trust of the customer.

The psychological profile and the patient's behavior emphasize one or the other variable in a totally subjective way, which is why it is very difficult for two different subjects (despite having the same nutritional needs in common) to be assigned the same low-calorie diet.
Obviously, the fundamental and MANDATORY requirements of the low-calorie diet remain: healthiness, food education and nutritional balance. The professional must know how to shape the diet guaranteeing the therapeutic objective and respecting the professional code of ethics.
The ability to interpret all these variables (but not only) constitutes the difference between the various professionals and explains why NOT ALL patients obtain the same results with the same operator, and why everyone prefers a technician and a low-calorie diet rather than others.
A machine CANNOT do all this, therefore, a pseudo - professional who does not have the technical - methodological knowledge sufficient to understand what the objectives (as well as the therapeutic priorities) of the patient are, and who therefore indiscriminately relies on automation, CANNOT do anything but do a BAD job.
Let me be clear, it is not difficult to make people lose weight and sometimes not even reduce their cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar and blood pressure; however, the performance must be evaluated as a whole. Also included in the judgment of a good low-calorie diet: nutritional deficits and possible need to integrate with drugs / food supplements, psychological stress, preservation of social habits, possible recidivism of the disease (index of lack of food education), fatigue of the organs, onset of symptoms or inconvenience of various kinds, etc.

Nutritional Balance

Notes on the nutritional balance of the low-calorie diet: problems in the composition

The reader will now be aware that formulating a proper low calorie diet is NOT an easy task. Even only from a technical and methodological point of view, it requires a lot of time, a thorough chemical knowledge of the various foods, experience in food associations, etc. Sometimes, in the most restrictive low-calorie diets (those to be assigned to people with severe handicaps, bedridden, elderly, sedentary and with very reduced physical structure, severe obese that require a rapid and out of the ordinary weight loss, etc.) it is really complicated to achieve the necessary amounts of certain nutrients without exceeding the ration of other components.
Among the molecules / ions whose daily "dose" is more difficult to reach we recognize:

  • iron (especially in pregnant and fertile women),
  • calcium (especially in the elderly and in children),
  • essential fatty acids of the ω-3 family (especially in those who DO NOT consume fish),
  • vitamin B2 (especially in lactose intolerant and in those who do not consume milk and derivatives),
  • folate (especially in people who do not consume fresh vegetables),
  • vitamin B12 (especially in vegan subjects),
  • vitamin D (in all low-calorie diets and especially in growing or elderly subjects),
  • dietary fiber (especially in diets against hyperglycemia and type 2 diabetes mellitus), etc.

Between the molecules / ions more difficult to contain / reduce in the low-calorie diet we recognize:

  • saturated fatty acids (especially in subjects who season with butter and not with oil),
  • cholesterol (especially in subjects who consume a lot of eggs, aged cheeses and offal),
  • sodium (especially in subjects who consume a lot of preserved products),
  • simple sugars (in all low-calorie diets),
  • proteins (in all low-calorie diets MA with greater interest when there is hepatic or, in some cases, renal pain),
  • purines (only in the presence of an inherited metabolic disease causing hyperuricaemia or overt gout),
  • lactose (in intolerant subjects),
  • gluten (in intolerant subjects).

In conclusion, having to make a choice "for health", I suggest that readers turn to qualified professionals and possibly specialized in the weight loss of the obese, as well as in the treatment of metabolic diseases; less trendy diets and more awareness!

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