There is increasing evidence that the type of fluids we drink can have a long-term impact on health by influencing the development of overweight, obesity and associated metabolic diseases. At the recent Nursing in Practice* event held in London, a seminar debating this innovative topic was delivered to a packed out audience. It is increasingly clear that a focus on hydration strategies should be considered alongside other lifestyle and weight management strategies. Water is a great choice – it is a cost free, simple intervention. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain in the battle of the bulge!
Water is essential to life and makes up about 60% body weight. Maintenance of optimum levels of hydration is important for our bodies to function well and mild dehydration, about 1-2% loss of body mass, is enough to impair physical and mental performance and can occur in anyone if they do not drink enough fluid. Maughan (2003) stated that there may be an association (not necessarily a causal one) between a low habitual fluid intake and some cancers, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. In 2005, Manz and Wentz supported this view stating that in the long term, there is evidence to suggest that chronic mild dehydration is associated with a number of conditions including hypertension, coronary heart disease and stroke.
It is predicted that by 2050 around 50% of the UK population will be obese. The rate of type 2 diabetes is expected to rise in tandem (currently 90% of type 2 diabetes is linked to obesity and unhealthy lifestyles) and since the NHS presently spends 1/10 of its budget on the treatment of type 2 diabetes, it is predicted that by 2010/11 there will be a funding gap of about £30 billion. Something has to change. Since 25% of the added sugar in our diet comes from soft drinks, fruit juice and other non-alcoholic drinks, a new look at talking to patients about hydration together with guidance about making the right calorie and sugar free drink choices could offer a simple message to help on all counts.
*Nursing in Practice events offer community nurses high quality conference programmes and the opportunity to share best practice with colleagues, enabling them to develop their own skills and careers and to deliver improved patient outcomes
The days are longer and warmer weather is on the horizon so dust off your trainers and get out an about. Regular activity together with a balanced diet is an integral part of helping you to maintain a healthy weight so what have you got to lose?
Study after study confirms that you are more likely to maintain a healthy weight if you have an active lifestyle. Not only that, you are also helping to reduce your risk of developing a chronic disease associated with overweight and obesity such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers - and will likely feel better overall too. You can’t change your genetic makeup but you can change what you do on a day to day basis and if weight management or weight loss is your goal then go for it! Get more active and make regular activity a part of everyday life. Walk more, swim, go for a cycle or do the gardening, sit less at your computer and watch less TV – everything counts.
That’s one side of the equation though – not only will you need more water when you exercise you’ll need more as the weather warms up. How much you drink is important but remember what you drink is important too. Many studies have shown that you are likely to put on weight when you regularly drink too many sugar-sweetened drinks so beware.... some drinks you choose can hide away more calories than you think! The energy in fruit juices, squash and fizzy drinks can all add up to a tidy sum, about 100 kcal a glass or more, so remember, water is calorie free. Add a low calorie sweetener to your water and make it taste great – you’re likely to drink more and keep well hydrated too – you know it makes sense.
Get organised for activity
Two thirds of adults and over one third of children in the UK are overweight or obese – a frightening statistic indeed. More and more people can’t maintain a healthy weight and, for those that do diet and lose weight, the challenge is to keep the weight off! It’s pretty well established that if you maintain a healthy weight you’re likely to be more mobile and reduce your risk of chronic disease such as heart disease and diabetes. You’ll probably have more energy and vitality, improved sleep and simply enjoy life lots more. So, how do YOU keep the weight off?
It should be easy ‘just eat less and do more’! Well if it really were that simple then why are so many getting bigger by the day? As a practising dietitian I know that when people try to eat less and do more, ‘fitting it all in’ is one of the hardest things so often give up before they start! In our increasingly busy lives our healthy eating intentions get sabotaged from every angle - and the amount of confusion in the media doesn’t help either. Take heart though, it can be simple and as time goes on, this blog will tackle lots of day to day practical issues to help you out.
Let’s start with something that really is simple - we know that people lose weight if they reduce the number of calories they eat below what they are using; by the same token, they will also stay the same weight if they eat as many calories as they expend in daily tasks and extra activities such as walking to work or playing with the kids in the park.
However, many popular ‘diets’ are just not sustainable and results are short lived as people can’t stick to them so I’d like you to think of weight loss in another way. Simply do what you usually do, eat what you usually eat but with one exception, replace some higher calorie drinks with low/no calorie, sweetened alternatives. That’s where low calorie sweeteners can come in. They are proven to be safe and provide sweetness and taste without the calories. How simple and straightforward is that?!
From fuelling fitness for sports performance to healthy eating and fat loss, Penny Hunking has written, researched and talked to consumers and professionals about virtually every aspect of diet, weight management and exercise. She has also written or contributed to many books on key aspects of food, fat loss, fitness and special diets in a career spanning more than 3 decades.
Penny is a Registered Dietitian, a member of the British Dietetic Association, the Nutrition Society, Nutritionists in Industry, Association of Obesity and Sports Dietitians UK. But life is not all hard work, she is passionate about scuba diving, water skiing, cookery, travel and eating out.
RD – Registered Dietitian www.bda.uk.com
R.SEN – Registered Sport and Exercise Nutritionist www.senr.org.uk
R.Nutr – Registered Nutritionist (with a nutrition specialism in Public Health) www.associationfornutrition.org