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Obesity - the challenge of the 21st century

All we need to know about the UK's 10 most popular diets   2013-05-22

Language is a reflection of its speakers and all languages grow and evolve with the people who use them. It would be interesting to trace the history of the word ‘diet’ to see when the word first acquired the meaning commonly ascribed to it in everyday conversation: “a selection or a limitation on the amount a person eats for reducing weight”. Would the first use of the word in this context reflect the beginnings of the ‘obesity epidemic’ that is much talked about? We’ll leave that for sociologists to answer. In this column we will look at a variety of common diets, analyse the science behind them and look at their pros and cons, thus giving you the tools to decide which one is best for you.

The risks of being overweight

You step on the scales, look down at the verdict and grimace with displeasure. “Impossible, the thing probably isn’t working properly” you say to yourself as you push the scales aside. Does this sound familiar to you?

Some people are blessed with a constitution that allows them to eat all they want without putting on weight. They are the lucky few. For most of us, eating what we want means piling on the kilos. This tendency exacerbates as we grow older which is problematic because being overweight is more than a matter of feeling good with yourself. To be overweight can have repercussions on our health; it can contribute to the development of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, sleep apnoea, fertility problems, gallstones and more.

But what exactly is the scientific definition of ‘overweight’? Are you overweight or obese and how many kilos do you have to lose?

Your BMI

According to the World Health Organisation, a person is overweight if he or she has a Body Mass Index (BMI) that is greater than or equal to 25. A person whose BMI is greater than or equal to 30, is obese. Your BMI is your weight in kilograms divided by the square of your height in metres. What this means in laymen’s English is that if for example your height is 1.75 metres and you weigh 90 kgs, you multiply 1.75 by 1.75 and divide 90 by the result. (1.75 x 1.75 =3.0625. 90 divided by 3.0625 = 29.39). Your BMI is 29.39. A simple search online will give you a list of websites, including the NHS Choices website, that give you your BMI at the click of a button.

The ideal diet

On the other hand ‘going on a diet’ is simply not the answer. It is true that if you eat less you will lose weight, but for how long will you be able to stick to your diet plan? The chances are that after a while you will return to your regular eating habits and pile all those kilos back on. Added to that, you must make sure that your ‘diet’ gives your body all the nourishment that it needs.

A successful diet must have three essential ingredients:

1.   Short and long term weight loss.

2.   Easy to follow.

3.   Gives your body its essential nourishment.

With this in mind we will look for the perfect diet. To do so we will examine the most popular diets and rate them in order of effectiveness. Keep an eye on this column.