Sunday, September 26

Ana Belén Ropero Lara: “The problem with miraculous diets is that they are more linked to aesthetics than to health”

Miracle diets have been in vogue for a long time because they promise quick results and, in today’s social and economic environment, speed is what prevails. Losing weight is hard work and these diets promise the opposite, quick effects. A serious problem is that most of them are more linked to aesthetic issues than to health. And, from a health point of view, they are not recommended. They have negative effects and, the moment you stop them and return to your eating patterns, the rebound effect occurs and you gain weight again. The best thing is to go to a professional who will do a study and teach you how to eat properly.

What is behind the proliferation of these diets?

The “detox” are associated with a commercial interest in the sale of products to which detoxifying properties are associated. It is not something that someone has come up with. Then they sell the vegetable or fruit smoothies at a golden price. They present them as if they were the panacea and they are still smoothies that can be made at home. Some have other ingredients added but that is already more secondary. There is a false theory that maintains that we need these types of products as if we were always exposed to toxins.

Why are there so many hoaxes on the internet linked to diets?

Because it is very easy to talk without anyone demanding proof of what you are publishing on the internet. We already have the liver and a system that is prepared to eliminate toxicities. But it is a very nice speech. You have to have more social responsibility to say certain things. The hoaxes and misinformation that now appear about covid-19 vaccination have existed in nutrition for years. It is something that is very close to the population and, for that reason, the perception that it is a scientific branch is often lost. It is not something like emotions, that each one feels them in a different way.

What is your thinking about what is counting?

It seems that our job is to deny what others are publishing for no reason. Four characteristics must be taken into account to detect fraudulent websites: those that do not provide references, do not have the participation of specialized people, do not promote healthy habits and only comment on beneficial effects. It is best to stay away from these types of websites because they do not contribute anything. Especially when they sell products and have commercial interests.

What is evident is that miracles do not happen …

It depends on what you want to get. If what you are looking for is to lose a little weight for a wedding because your suit or dress does not fit, it will still work for you. You have to be aware of the risks you run and their health effects. We specialists always speak from the point of view of health. Then you can make fools at the risk that each one wants to take. The important thing is to have information and not succumb to commercial hoaxes. In the advertising they use, young and thin women always appear and often make use of Photoshop. I repeat that the objective in diets has to be health and not aesthetics.

Does food from supermarkets comply with the regulations on their labels?

There is legislation that half of the nutritional claims do not comply. Sometimes it’s because they don’t make good use of that statement. They use legislation with claims that are attractive to the consumer. And the perception we are left with is that they are healthy. The European Union tried to put in place a mechanism to protect the consumer but it was not carried out. There are foods that are not recommended and focus only on the nutritional characteristic that interests the manufacturer. There are cereals with many vitamins that do not emphasize the added sugars. Or foods that are sold as light, such as mayonnaise or margarine, which are not recommended.

What can you tell about foods for children?

There are countries that are limiting the advertising of unhealthy foods directed at children. Spain has that intention using the Nutriscore system. Better that than doing nothing. I believe that the institutions do not fulfill their role of consumer protection, there are many initiatives that are not implemented. Attempts have been made, such as removing vending machines in schools and colleges. Parents are the first to make difficulties to promote children’s health, we lack awareness. A compromise is needed between institutions, governments, families and companies. Cookies with added sugars sell more than cereal pancakes, it’s the easy way.

Is obesity the great epidemic of the 21st century?

Covid-19 will pass and we will be left with the problem of obesity, which kills more people. We are not aware, I suppose because we see that its effects are long term. We have been talking about this for many years and it seems that sensitivity has been lost. Many times individuals carry the responsibility on others. And a lot of information is missing, sometimes due to commercial interests, others due to ignorance and others due to lack of respect for science. It costs a lot for the population to take sides because a lot of people don’t care. Sometimes we professionals feel like the lone ranger who stands up to a problem.

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