Lose 8 kilos in 12 days: is losing weight with a crash diet healthy?

You regularly see advertisements for slimming products that promise you to lose pounds in a few days. Losing 8 kilos in 12 days is far from impossible, it is said. Losing weight quickly with such a diet is also called a crash diet. These products will undoubtedly deliver on their promises. But how healthy are such diets and what possible adverse effects does it have on your body?

What is a crash diet?

If you want to lose weight, it is important to consume fewer calories each day than your body uses in a day. The calories that are not burned are converted into fat and stored in the body. When your body cannot get enough energy from your food and drinks, it gets the necessary energy from stored body fat. If you want to lose weight responsibly, it is recommended – depending on your height and weight – to consume about 500 to 1000 calories per day less than you need to maintain a stable weight. With a crash diet, however, you consume an extremely lower number of calories every day than your body needs. For example, with a crash diet you only consume 500 to 1000 calories per day. For reference, an average man needs approximately 2,500 calories daily, an average woman needs 2,000 calories.

Although a crash diet seems like an attractive way to lose a lot of body weight quickly, it also has some health risks:

  • A lack of important nutrients
  • Organ failure
  • The occurrence of psychological complaints

Conditions due to lack of nutrients

When you severely limit your daily calorie intake, you also limit the intake of essential nutrients that the body needs to function properly and stay healthy. Crash dieters are particularly at risk of the following problems:

  • Iron deficiency
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Calcium deficiency
  • Disruptions in sodium and potassium (life-threatening)

Disruptions in sodium and potassium in particular can lead to life-threatening situations. Sodium and potassium are so-called electrolytes that help the body with proper nerve and muscle function. They play an important role in regulating the heart rate. When sodium and potassium levels get too low, you can have a heart attack.

Other deficiencies can lead to osteoporosis (calcium deficiency) and anemia (iron deficiency). With a vitamin B12 deficiency you can experience various, often vague, complaints. You can suffer from hair loss, severe fatigue, muscle complaints and the nervous system can become disrupted.

Organ failure

Your organs, including the heart, liver and kidneys, need certain nutrients to function properly. This mainly concerns carbohydrates. When your body cannot get enough energy from food to make the organs work, the body will burn muscle tissue to get energy. Ultimately, the muscle tissue of vital organs can also be burned, such as the liver, kidneys and heart. This leads to organ failure.

Mental disorders

In one research group, there appeared to be a link between crash diets and psychological disorders, especially psychoses. A psychosis is a psychological condition in which someone has a lack of sense of reality and a distorted worldview. It has been found that the more weight loss a person had in a short period of time, the more severe the mental disorder. Some of the people studied did not have a psychological disorder before their weight loss. The other part suffered a relapse to a previous psychological disorder. When the diet was stopped and a normal weight was regained, the psychotic symptoms disappeared again.

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