Jamie Oliverís fascinating series on how to "eat to save your life" has captured the nation's interest with some wonderful insight into the consequence of poor eating and the remedial action required to improve health and fitness.
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The series looks at the science of what food does to your body to help change the way you live your life. There are a number of dramatic demonstrations, which includes the autopsy of a 25-stone man (165kg), who quite literally ate himself to death. Jamie Oliver, Dr Catherine Spencer Smith (physician and fitness expert), Jane Clarke (nutritionist) and Dr Gunther von Hagens (anatomist) explore the eating habits of 18 ordinary people from the British public. Most of them hardly eat vegetables but generally speaking considered themselves fit and at the beginning of the show had no real intension of changing their diet. This was all about to change one they saw how the food they were eating was affecting their body.
At a glance, developed nations have expanded enormously over the last 60 years. Below is a comparison of our average measurements in 1950 and today. We have on average, put on nearly 4kg and gone from 1 in 10 people being obese to 1 in 4!
This is largely due to the convenience the food industry has given to us in portion controlled meals, designed to last. Unfortunately these meals are generally high in salt, fat and sugar.
How has food changed over last 50 years
An example of how our food has changed over the last 50 years in our prepared meats such as sausage rolls or meal pies. A free range pork farmer, sausage roll or pork pie used to be made up of 80 to 85% meat. Now some varieties only contain 35% meat. This creates a wetter product which means more flavour is required, and this comes in the form of cheap additives such as onion, garlic, oils and fat, salt, raising agents, colours and emulsifiers.
The sugar content of so many of our foods has dramatically increased. The example of Special K is given, which now has double the sugar compared to 20 years ago. We have now come to crave more sugar and it has increased in all foods including fruit and vegetables. Our supermarkets are now stocked with naturally sweater varieties of food.
Fibre & Poo
Poo samples were taken from one of the volunteers and compared to an average Ugandan. People from Uganda have some of the best stool in the world, which is helped by fibre. The volunteer had very low stool levels and although it seemed comical at the time is does have serious implications. Without enough fibre, people can get polyps growing in the bowl which can turn into cancer. Bowl cancer is the 2nd biggest cancer killer in developed nations. 80% of bowl cancer incidents are purely related to lifestyle, food and exercise and is completely preventable.
The good news is that avoiding a constipated bowl and the related problems is quite easy. You just need to make sure you have plenty of good foods and heaps of fibre. The average person is meant to have around 20 Ė 24g of fibre a day. Below are some tips for healthy stool.
- Instant porridge
- Tin of baked beans
- Fresh strong coffee
- Plenty of water: works with fibre to make stool soft
- Exercise: gets adrenalin pumping to stimulate good flow of stool
The average female should consume 70g and male 95g of fat each day. However, too much fat can cause fat to accumulate in our muscles and major organs. Saturated fat in particular is bad for us as it clogs up our arteries to increase susceptibility of heart disease. Foods that are high in saturated fats include:
- Full fat dairy
- Fatty sausage
- Fatty red meat.
The good fats are unsaturated fats and foods that have a higher proportion of these good fats include:
- Olive oil
- Oily fish.
Antioxidants also great as they help nullify the effects of saturated fats, by stoping the fats from clogging up arteries. Some the richest sources of antioxidants include dark chocolate and red wine.
You BMI (Body Mass Index) gives a good general indication of your healthy weight. Once your BMI is over the healthy range, any further increase can significantly increase the likelihood of diabetes and heart disease. For instance morbidly obese people have 9 Ė 13 years lower life expectancy. If you wish to calculate your BMI, simply follow the BMI link.
Why itís so easy to put on weigh
In general, men should aim to eat around 2500 calories a day and women 2000. One of the volunteers called Claire recorded a random day of her food intake. Her total food intake came to just over 2500 calories, which meant she was in excess 300 calories a day. This does not sound like a lot but in this would equate to her putting on an extra 20kg in only 15 months! But the good news is that this also means that by cutting out only a few foods each day, you can have a dramatic impact on your long term weight. For Claire, this meant only cutting out 1 full fat latte and crisps each day. Some good food substitutions include:
- Popcorn instead of crisps which are high in saturated fat
- Mix unsweetened fruit juice with sparkling water
- Chew your food 20 times before swallowing. The chewing action triggers stretch preceptors in the jaw which send signals to brain that acknowledges the body is full.
- Whole grain cereals keep you fuller for longer, reducing the temptation to snack
Obese men are 5 times and women 13 times more likely to develop Diabetes. This crippling heath problem is the leading cause of limb amputation, blindness and kidney failure. It can cause impotence in men and raises risk of heart disease. Many people do not realise they have Diabetes and so if you are obese, you should go and check with your doctor. The risk of developing Diabetes is higher with family history or high percentage of body fat. With Diabetes all cells are full with fat and so the fat can not get out of blood stream. Losing weight can be enough to avoid Diabetes, however it is much better to do it gradually to maintain this weight loss. To avoid Diabetes, a well balanced diet is important, with lots of fruit and vegetables.
- Fruit is great as the sugar is in fibre and therefore has a slower release.
- Whole grain paster and bread.
- Wholemeal bread is best but if you do have white bread combine it with fish or meat for slower sugar release.
The salt in the average persons diet has increased significantly over the last 20 years. A quarter of all people are salt sensitive which causes muscles to constrict in small arteries, raising blood pressure, and when combined with bad cholesterol can clause a clotting of the artery and result in a heart attack. Even more concerning is that there is no way to easily find out if you are salt sensitive. The best solution is to keep salt levels in your diet low.
Man that ate himself to death
Dr Gunther von Hagens dissects a morbidly obese man who was riddled with fat. All the deceased mans organs were infested with fat. The lungs were squashed up and there was fatty tissue everywhere. He infers that the man would have been very short of breath and would have been unable to exercise as normal people would. The graphic display was a big eye opener to the terrible effects overeating has on the body. Dr Gunther clearly identifies that the cause of death was heart failure, a direct consequence of overeating.
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