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Obesity - The Global Epidemic

by Nicki Woodward(more info)

listed in diabetes, originally published in issue 135 - May 2007

On a recent aeroplane trip back from holiday, a gentleman ten rows in front of me died mid flight, despite the tremendous efforts of the doctors who happened to be on board. What stood out in this case is that he was very overweight, and according to cabin crew, a diabetic with heart problems. There’s nothing like a personal experience like that to make you question if such a situation may have been avoided. Responsible for more than 9,000 premature deaths per year in England, the consequences of excess weight gain include certain cancers, heart disease and stroke and even more so diabetes, predicted to soon overtake as our number one killer.

Society has now coined the term ‘obesity’ for everyone who is overweight. This is an inaccurate observation as most people are simply overweight. But look at any government and worldwide statistic, and obesity is apparently on the increase at rather a worrying rate. Any therapist who can offer advice on diet and lifestyle has a unique opportunity to tackle this worldwide problem at grass roots level - by educating the individual. Diet, supplements and herbal medicine can all play a valuable role in this education process.

Begin by looking at the fat and carbohydrate content of your client’s diet. Weight gain is often blamed on fat content but processed carbohydrates play a huge role. They encourage excess insulin released into body cells, which eventually become de-sensitized to the hormone. More insulin is required for the desired effect of fat storage, but this excess circulating in the blood does not allow the fat to be released as fuel. More fat is thus stored, creating both physical problems and mood swings.

Educate your client on the dietary advantages of fresh fruits and vegetables with their high fibre and water content, and introduce them to delicious seeds, nuts and avocados, organic eggs and lean meats, low fat cheeses, olives and fish, raw vegetables and bean dips. Explain the disadvantages of foods that make the metabolism sluggish, such as breads and processed foods, sugar and alcohol. Wholegrain cereals are great, but a handful at each meal will suffice. Boost metabolism with small regular meals, especially in the mornings; a pinch of cayenne pepper and lemon juice in hot water, and a good variety of foods. Advocate the benefits of exercise and encourage a workout plan for the future, with morning exercise being the most beneficial for the metabolism.

Always assess vitamin and mineral deficiencies in overweight people, as this encourages food cravings as the body tries to balance out dietary inadequacies. Too many toxins in the body also encourage weight gain. The following foods and supplements may be considered as part of an effective weight loss plan as they tackle metabolism imbalances, toxic cells and cravings.

Sugar and Other Cravings

Chromium is an excellent supplement for sugar cravings, whilst the supplement 5HTP has shown to reduce the cravings for carbohydrates. Brewers yeast is rich in B vitamins to support the nervous system, and has the added benefit of reducing cravings for unhealthy foods.

Good Digestion of Nutrients

Pineapple (Ananas comosus) is a favourite with nutritionists as it’s a filling and water rich food. A supplement extracted from this fruit known as bromelain also helps the digestion of fats and protein. Meanwhile fennel (Foeniculum) is hailed to aid the proper elimination of fats from the digestive tract and is a natural appetite suppressant. A good digestive enzyme supplement will ensure correct digestion at mealtimes.

Foods that Encourage Weight Loss

Malabar tamarind (Gareinia cantbogia) is used in India as a condiment and is apparently a lipogenic inhibitor (prevents the production of fat). Tamarind can be taken as a tasty food flavouring or as a supplement, combining well with chromium. Even nuts play a role in weight loss, as research has shown that walnuts (Juglans) are rich in serotonin which encourages a feeling of fullness. Red pepper (Capsicum) has been shown by scientists to raise metabolic rates by as much as 25 per cent. They also make you thirsty, and drinking more liquids helps reduce appetite. Coconut oil has also come up trumps in recent research, as its medium chain triglycerides (saturated fats) appear to actually promote weight loss rather than gain. You may already drink green tea (Camellia sinensis) for its rich antioxidant properties, but also consider its advantages as a supplement as a standardised extract may help you to burn body fat.

Cleanse the Body Organs

Aloe vera juice (Aloe barbadensis) improves digestion and has a cleansing action on the digestive tract. Meanwhile dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) leaves and root can be made into a tea and sipped three times a day to cleanse the kidney and the liver and reduce cravings for sugary foods. Taken with plenty of water, psyllium husk (Plantago) swells in the digestive tract encouraging digestive cleansing, good bowel movement and curbed appetite.

Support the Adrenals During Weight Loss

Liquorice (Glycrrhiza glabra) and Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus Senticosus) support the adrenal glands and helps to regulate blood sugar levels and sugar cravings. They also help to reduce the tiredness often associated with weight loss. With gentle encouragement and a personalized nutrition, exercise and supplement plan, the path away from obesity can be achieved and maintained.

Further Information

World Health Organisation
Department of Health


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About Nicki Woodward

Nicki Woodward BA Hons DN MED MBANT Dip Phyt MNIMH ITEC is a fully qualified Nutritionist, Medical Herbalist and Massage Therapist who practises in Middlesex and Surrey. She is a member of the NIMH (National Institute of Medical Herbalists) and BANT (British Association of Nutritional Therapists). Her experience to-date includes training, research and supplement development. She may be contacted on Tel: 07989 968 349;

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