The truth about food

Want to bust some common food myths for good?

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it kick-starts your metabolism.

Your metabolism doesn’t suddenly stop at night. If it did, you’d be drawing your last breath – because ‘metabolism’ is all the chemical processes taking place in your body every second to keep you alive. And it certainly doesn’t need a ‘kick start’ when you get up. While it’s true that metabolism does increases slightly when we eat, because the body creates heat to digest the food, eating breakfast won’t do anything to enhance your metabolic rate or burn more calories throughout the day.

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Fat people have slower metabolisms.

No, entirely the opposite – the bigger you are, the faster your metabolic rate. This is because a larger body needs more energy (calories) to function than a smaller one – just like a big, heavy Rolls Royce needs a bigger engine and has a higher fuel consumption than a diminutive Mini. Fatter people burn more energy because the heart, lungs and other organs have to work significantly harder than they do in a thinner person of the same height. Equally, numerous studies show that ‘naturally skinny’ people actually consume significantly fewer calories than bigger people of the same height.

Diets damage the metabolism.

In the first couple of weeks of a diet, metabolic rate drops temporarily by around 15% as the body uses up stored fat as fuel. When you come off the diet, metabolic rate goes back up to ‘normal’, but that ‘normal’ won’t be as high as it was when you were bigger. This is because a lighter body needs less energy to function than a heavier one. This explains why it’s so easy to regain weight after dieting if you don’t rethink your approach to eating and cut down your ‘usual’ intake to match your lighter body’s reduced energy requirements. Your metabolism’s not wrecked – it’s just your ability to judge food intake that’s out of kilter.

It’s better to eat several small meals a day than two or three larger ones.

A recent study actually found the reverse is more likely. Researchers gave two groups of people the same number of calories but they were to be taken as either two main meals or six snacks a day. Each group ate about 1,700 kcal daily over the course of several days. On average, the group who ate two meals a day lost almost 4Ib more than the grazers. Frequent eaters were also hungrier than those on two meals.

VLCDs (very low calorie diets) are dangerous.

VLCDs – diets of less than 800 calories a day – can be extremely beneficial for health. Research shows that fully nutritious VLCDs can reduce cholesterol levels in people showing early symptoms of type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, weight loss on a VLCD can actually reverse type 2 diabetes, sometimes within a matter of days. Diabetes UK has recently given the largest single grant in its 80-year history to a five-year study into the use of VLCDs for curing type 2 diabetes.

Intermittent fasting is dangerous.

This myth has regained momentum with the increasing popularity of 5:2 diets. A typical 5:2 fasting plan means eating conventional food for five days a week then reducing their energy intake to around 500-600 kcal a day. Research shows that intermittent fasting can not only lead to weight loss but can also improve cholesterol levels and the reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Exercise is essential for losing weight.

Exercise is beneficial for health, and it’s also a great weight-management tool. However, it’s a really challenging way to lose weight. The reality is 1Ib of fat is equivalent to 3,500 calories and on average an adult burns off 100 kcal walking one mile. This means you’d have to walk 35 miles to lose a pound! Equally, to lose 3st you would have to walk from London to Gibraltar on top of what you normally do each day.