It is a very British tradition that offers comfort even in the darkest times: you can sit down with a cup of tea and a biscuit. It certainly helps in my house – when, after the daily government briefing, my partner and I head to the kitchen for a cup of tea and a chocolate flavor.
So when it was announced last week that food packages sent to vulnerable British people contained a packet of pastry cream, I thought: too good.
But some well-known diet gurus don’t seem to agree.
One, an NHS doctor who wrote no less on Twitter, called the decision “utterly disgraceful” and “absolutely shocking.”
When it was announced last week that food parcels sent to vulnerable Britons contained a packet of pastry cream, pictured in the photo, I thought: too good, Eve Simmons writes
“At a time when vulnerable people need to eat nutritious food more than ever [we] give them ultra-processed junk instead, ”he tweeted.
He was not alone. A string of tweeters, including one called @dietdoc, added, ‘People have to send it back. I’d rather fast than eat that garbage. ‘
Ministers could not have chosen a worse time to mix Britons with ‘junk’, they said. After all, emerging evidence suggests that obesity may increase the risk of Covid-19 complications.
Their suggestion to release vital hospital beds? A national weight loss regime. An intensive care physician working in Iceland advised, “Eat minimally processed foods … limit free sugar and refined starch intake.”
According to the popular cardiologist and diet book author, Dr. Aseem Malhotra – who reached Sky News with his message – “What you eat will affect your immune system.”
He recommends keeping ultra-processed foods contained … cutting snacks, chips and chocolate to an absolute minimum. ‘
Instead, we should “eat nutritious, whole foods.”
According to him, this could have an impact within a matter of weeks to months.
But I’m struggling to accept that now that millions are struggling to buy food, it’s a good time to eat a restrictive diet.
And when I asked experts who spent their careers how they ate how people eat and what effect nutrition has on our health, both when we are well and seriously ill, they agreed.
Food bank leaders, like this one in Cardiff, reported this week that an unprecedented number of older people went without food
NUTRITION AFFECTS IMMUNITY
The biscuit bashers are correct in at least one respect – obesity appears to be associated with a higher risk of complications if the coronavirus strikes.
About 70 percent of the sickest Covid-19 patients – in need of intensive care – were overweight or obese, according to a recent study. A similar pattern occurred in Wuhan, China, where obese individuals are classified as a vulnerable group.
Keith Neal, professor emeritus of epidemiology of infectious diseases at the University of Nottingham, says: ‘Obese people are more likely to have type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, both of which affect the immune response. Even those without associated health problems may have excess fat in the lung cavities, which increases respiratory complications. ‘
According to an influential social media commentator, Ivor Cummins, author of Eat Rich, Live Long, is a viable method for reducing hospital admissions. Cummins, an engineer by profession, tweeted to his 49,000 followers, “ You can drop your diabetic physiology in a shockingly short time with the right diet and lifestyle interventions. This cannot help mitigate this crisis. #Coronavirus. ‘
And about Sky News, Dr. Malhotra: “We know that in up to 50 percent of cases, type two diabetes can be brought into remission within months of a lifestyle change.”
What is the difference between glucose and glycogen?
Glucose is a type of sugar that serves as fuel for cells in the body. It is produced when carbohydrates, such as bread and pasta, are digested.
Excess glucose that is not immediately needed is converted and stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen – a larger and more complex sugar.
When people exercise, glucose is the main source of energy. But when the body is deprived of glucose, the reserves of glycogen stores are converted back into glucose to give a boost.
The only evidence-based diet that can “reverse” diabetes is living 800 calories of meal replacement drinks for several weeks.
But what do the medical experts say? It is not surprising that there is a general consensus that now is not the time. Prof Neal says: ‘The malnutrition caused by these diets would cause an increase in severe cases … it would drastically decrease the immune system response.
“That is why infectious diseases are moving through refugee camps.”
And dietitian Katherine Kimber says, “Research shows that yo-yo diets can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. You don’t want to increase your risk now if there is limited access for medical professionals. ‘
The risks are not only physical. According to a nationwide survey, half of all Britons have seen their pandemic negatively impact their mental health. Adding restrictive or rigid behavior seems to be a recipe for psychological disaster.
Kimber says, “It is in times of instability and fear that we are most likely looking for something to control. Sometimes that’s food because it’s the only way to deal with it.
But starting a diet in a time of anxiety, exhaustion, and excessive pressure can easily cause many very complex psychological problems around food.
“Diet is one of the major risk factors for eating disorders, especially during times of stress.”
And it is unlikely that any changes you make now will last very long.
“Behavioral changes stick when they fit into your normal, daily routine,” adds top dietitian Luci Daniels. “But this is not a normal situation.”
EVE SIMMONS: I’m having a hard time accepting that now, when millions are struggling to buy food, it’s an appropriate time to eat a restrictive diet
OLDER PEOPLE SHOULD STAY HEALTHY
Many experts are more concerned that soon, or even now, millions of people will simply not have enough to eat to keep them healthy.
Before the coronavirus hit, the number of malnourished, elderly British people was already enormous.
NHS figures released last year showed that one in ten over-65s was at risk of starvation. The government currently recommends that those over the age of 70 – and thus an increased risk of severe Covid-19 – be “particularly strict” in following social distance guidelines. That means, if possible, “talking to others to help you arrange food delivery.” But according to Age UK, about half of all over-75s live alone, and 12 percent have no one to shop for them.
Even if it was possible to get an online supermarket delivery machine, half of 75-year-olds never use the internet.
On Wednesday, Sonya Johnson, director of a food bank, reported that an unprecedented number of older people went without food.
She said, “We have older people saying to us,” I haven’t eaten in a few days because I don’t have any food. ‘
The most sensible diet for these adults is one that increases – not limits – food intake.
Lesley Carter, of Age UK’s Malnutrition Task Force, says, “One of the most important things older people can do to protect their health is to eat enough. We expect hundreds of thousands to stop eating in the coming weeks. Either they do not have access to food, their home help will not be there to prepare it or they will feel miserable and lose their appetite.
“The more vulnerable people are, the more vulnerable they will be to the infection. Our advice to everyone right now is to eat foods that make them happy and happy. ‘
And if that includes a few pastry creams, then so be it.