Healthy eating nutrition errors and false myths

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In the religious war around the allegedly healthy nutrition much is based on myths and ideology. We probably have to throw some ideas about so-called healthy food overboard.

By: Johanna Bayer

Status: 06.06.2012 | Archive

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Actually, everyone in Germany should know how to eat right, stay healthy and slim – theoretically. In practice, more than half of Germans are now too fat. The attempts to explain the – worldwide – phenomenon are as numerous as the diet models.

Of course genes play a role, of course the modern lifestyle with too little exercise, too little sleep, too much work without rest breaks, too many sweets, cola and alcohol. It is now also known that people in difficult circumstances, with less education or low income are more likely to be overweight than people with high income and education. It is obvious that this is not easy to resolve. The psyche factor has also been dramatically underestimated so far: depressives are often overweight and, conversely, many overweight people suffer from depressive moods or anxiety.

Eating out of frustration, habit and tradition

Many are used to rewarding, comforting or soothing themselves with food. All this is not inevitable, but learned or downright conditioned. The mechanisms are widespread and difficult to get rid of. High-calorie traditions and rituals – such as the after-work beer and the coffee party – are also weighty reasons for the kilos on the hips.

There is no simple truth

Despite these many factors, there are bitter discussions about the only right way to eat. However, healthy eating and proper nutrition is probably not much more than a matter of faith – because the facts are thin:

"Large studies in America have shown that it doesn’t really matter whether you eat a lot of vitamins or less, or a little fat or a lot of fat, or more fiber or less fiber. The real risk is obesity."

Prof. Dr. Volker Schusdziarra

Prof. Dr. Volker Schusdziarra of the Technical University of Munich heads a consultation hour specifically for overweight people at the Else Kroner-Fresenius Center for Nutrition:

"The composition of the food had no effect on getting sick in the studies, even no effect on the death rate. Basically, those who have a normal body weight can eat what they like. The normal-weight person does not have to take anything into consideration when eating. Of course, everyone can claim that it is good for him individually, if he now eats a few more vitamins or a little more fruit or fiber. But that falls under the heading of religious freedom. These are creeds that everyone is allowed to have. But they are not medically and scientifically substantiated."

Prof. Dr. Volker Schusdziarra

With it the search for the only true, correct nourishing way would be settled. Lucky are now those who have a normal weight and can eat anything they like. But the others, the overweight people, have several problems at once: What should they eat, how do they lose weight and how do they maintain their weight in the long term??

General rules lead astray

In this context, Volker Schusdziarra considers previous ideas to be largely misguided: "Overweight people do not eat unhealthily. They simply eat too much, too calorie-rich", says the expert. He considers the division into healthy and unhealthy foods to be nonsensical. In his opinion, general recommendations such as eating plenty of cereal products and fruit are also misleading.

"Straight noodles, bread and grain products are problematic in punkto weight . The highly concentrated carbohydrates in cereal products are the main fatteners."

Prof. Dr. Volker Schusdziarra

Insulin – The fattening hormone

Schusdziarra himself recommends people who want to lose weight to be as sparing as possible with calories in the form of carbohydrates – i.e. bread, dumplings, pasta, cakes and sweets. Because they cause the pancreas to secrete insulin. And this substance is the body’s own fattener: insulin is a fattening hormone that opens the cells to sugar from the blood and stimulates the fat cells to store depot fat. Who keeps its insulin mirror by bread, cake, noodles and then still the naschen in between constantly high, has no chance to lose weight.

Dangerous are also the sweet drinks such as cola, soda, juices and the juice spritzers popular in summer.

"Liquid calories in large quantity and in addition constant stimulation of insulin, there one does not have a chance to lose weight."

Prof. Dr. Volker Schusdziarra

Bread and fruit – not automatically healthy

Schusdziarra has studied the eating habits of his patients by eating protocol. Every year he treats thousands of patients, including severely obese people who have been struggling with their kilos for years. Result: Bread belongs to the largest Dickmachern.

"This is because people are persuaded that bread, especially wholemeal bread, is healthy. Then they think they’re doing it right if they eat a lot of it."

Prof. Dr. Volker Schusdziarra

It is similar with fruit, also a source of calories:

"Also here many believe that they can eat unlimited fruit, because it is so healthy and has so many vitamins. But that’s where the calories accumulate, because fruit is eaten frequently and in large quantities. If you have every day only 250 calories as surplus, from the fruit, which is eaten additionally and in between, then that is at the end of the year 14 kilograms fat tissue on the hips."

Prof. Dr. Volker Schusdziarra

Not to be killed: Myths about fat and cholesterol

Also Ulrike Gonder, Ernahrungswissenschaftlerin and book authoress, believes that it is long time to depart from the prevailing ideologies. For years, she has criticized the way the German Nutrition Society (DGE) handles nutrition recommendations:

"They can’t get certain things out of their heads – consumers have learned: fat is bad, butter is bad, cholesterol is bad. The fact that all this is scientifically not at all durable and also officially refuted, is simply not communicated. For example, the DGE has already compiled all the scientific data for the fat guideline and admits that fat does not necessarily make you fat and sick and lead to heart attacks. But this is simply not communicated. There must happen also in the nourishing science what, one must pour pure wine to the people."

It has long been clear, for example, that cholesterol ingested with food has virtually nothing to do with the cholesterol level in the blood. Even those who have a genetically determined high cholesterol level can continue to eat their eggs for breakfast, says Volker Schusdziarra: "Only medication can change the pathologically elevated cholesterol level.

Omit snacks

Ulrike Gonder also has nothing to say about the usual blanket dietary rules. About those with the snacks that are recommended again and again – better five to six small meals than three large meals a day.

"This is a sacred cow that should have been slaughtered long ago. Some people need something in between, but in my experience these are rather the lean ones. People with overweight do much better with three regular meals."

Of course, one should not starve oneself and constantly skip the main meals. Then it can come to the feared hot hunger attacks. Instead, Volker Schusdziarra also recommends eating fewer meals per day.

In order for the body to break down excess fat reserves, it needs a longer break from food, and it needs it at night:

"If one wants to lose weight, it is important not to eat too late in the evening and above all no snack more. Because in humans, the body’s own fat burning takes place predominantly at night. Above all with intermediate meals the chance is during the day equal to zero that the body burns fat, because one supplies fuel in short distances. And eating something late in the evening, even if it’s just fruit, means that fat burning doesn’t start until two o’clock, whereas it would otherwise start at 22.00 o’clock could go off. And thus the fat burn, which is otherwise built into the metabolism, is lower."

Prof. Dr. Volker Schusdziarra

It is and remains a matter of taste

The experts of the show

Prof. Dr. med. Volker Schusdziarra
Specialist in internal medicine,
Gastroenterology Clinic Rechts der Isar

Ulrike Gonder
Science journalist and graduate ecotrophologist

Nevertheless, in his own nutritional concept, Schusdziarra does not forbid patients to keep their little preferences: Those who can’t work without eating a piece of cake in the afternoon are also allowed to do so in the TU Munich’s weight loss program. But you have to save the calories in other places and make sure that you don’t stimulate the insulin secretion too much.

Schusdziarra coordinates a customized eating plan with each patient:

"Eating is highly conditioned behavior, and highly individualized. If someone absolutely needs their chocolate, you can’t get them to nibble on a carrot or go jogging instead. In our practice, we look for alternatives from the same food and flavor group. So don’t take half a bar of chocolate, but a cup of chocolate pudding from the refrigerated section. Then the familiar taste is there, and the desired feeling of having something nice and fatty in your mouth – but it’s a lot fewer calories. It is similar with fried potatoes, which everyone always says are pure fat and unhealthy. They are much cheaper than, for example, a whole wheat roll. 100 grams of fried potatoes have 100 kilocalories less than 100 grams of wholemeal rolls! Most people don’t even know this. And in addition they stimulate the insulin much less."

Prof. Dr. Volker Schusdziarra

"Even roast pork, which has fallen completely into disrepute, which is wrongly demonized as being too fatty and unhealthy, is actually a wonderful dish even for overweight people. Rather a piece roast more and for it a dumpling omit, that is more favorable. Because so one saves calories and keeps the insulin in the rein. In addition, one has the belly full and feels pleasantly full – and that is the most important thing with the meal."

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