Health: Too Much of a Good Thing; You Don't Need Us to Tell You That Exercise, Low-Fat Diets, Fibre, Vitamins, Sex and Sleep Are Good for You. but You Do Need Us to Tell You That Too Much of Any of Them Is Bad for You. Michele Kirsch Reports
Kirsch, Michele, The Mirror (London, England)
Do you go to the gym for three hours a day, seven days a week? No, we thought not, but just in case you're ever in danger of compulsive over- exercising, it's good to know your limits. Lorna Malcolm, studio coordinator for Esporta Health & Racquet Clubs, says, `Although regular exercise has many benefits, too much of it can lead to permanent or recurring injury, dramatic weight loss, and a sharp decrease in energy levels. In order to improve your fitness, you should aim to do 20 to 30 minutes of moderate activity each day, working up to an hour.'
How much is too much? `If someone experiences a feeling of anxiety when not exercising, they are overdoing it,' says Lorna. Signs to look out for are lethargy, mood swings and depression.
Having fish and chips with a deep-fried Mars bar for pudding every day is never a good idea, but drastically reducing your fat intake can be counterproductive. Patrick Holford, founder of the Institute of Optimum Nutrition, and author of The 30 Day Fat Burner Diet (pounds 6.99, Piatkus), says there are two problems with very low-fat diets. `Firstly, such regimes are high in carbohydrates. Sugar and refined foods replace fatty foods. This encourages blood sugar problems which can cause fatigue, mood swings and sugar cravings. A more serious aspect of low-fat diets is the exclusion of sufficient essential fats. Without these, the body can't function properly.' Studies show that for this reason, people on very low-fat diets experience low energy, yeast problems and, again, mood swings. Holford says we should eat more foods rich in essential fats (also called omega-3 and omega-6 fats), including seeds, seed oils and fish.
How low is too low? About 20% of your total calorie intake should come from fats. Patrick Holford says of that 20%, the ideal breakdown would be: 4% omega-6 fats and 3% omega-3, 7% monosaturated fats like olive oil and no more than 6% saturated fats (butter and cream). Signs of a deficiency of essential fats include dry skin, eczema, brittle nails and poor hair condition.
Ever notice how, in second-hand book shops, next to the eight copies of Jaws, there are always three copies of The F Plan Diet, which had slimmers the world over scoffing tablespoons of bran at every opportunity. Dietary fibre, as found in fruit and vegtables, is a good thing, but taking wheat bran has no proven effect on weight loss. Worse, it can aggravate IBS, wind and bloating. Nutritionist Suzannah Olivier, author of Banish Bloating (pounds 6.99, Pocket Books), says that wheat bran is also high in phytates, which bind calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron, and can significantly reduce their absorption.
How much is too much? …