I was alerted by a friend today, via Facebook, that a somewhat alarming recommendation had been made by a registered dietitian. Having been reading in my favourite health magazine an article written by a dietitian, who was keen to explain that her qualifications are registered, and therefore she is regulated, unlike nutritionists, who are not, I was particularly concerned regarding this advice. Dietitians, apparently, are the only people qualified to assess, diagnose and actually treat diet and nutrition problems, and they can be struck off if found unfit to practise.
So, what was this alarming recommendation that was given to a friend of a friend? That, since her child had multiple allergies and was underweight, she should fry all of his food. Since I am getting this information third hand, I cannot totally rely on its accuracy, and must state at the outset here that I have not spoken to the parent, or indeed the dietitian, concerned. However, even if this is only partially true, it leaves me pondering a number of issues.
Firstly, by what criteria is the unfortunate child being diagnosed as underweight? If BMI charts are being used, it is well known that they are notoriously inaccurate for children. Indeed, even as an adult, I was recently self-diagnosed as underweight by looking at BMI charts, when clearly I am not. Likewise, my niece, at age 14, was diagnosed underweight on BMI, but was a slim, fit, lean, muscular athletic child who “appeared” thin in relation to her fat, unhealthy classmates. I think when I was a teenager, there were only two fat children in the whole school, and they were rightly the ones considered to be abnormal. How sad that, due to the skyrocketing levels of obesity in our society, it is now the slim, healthy schoolchildren that are viewed as the abnormal ones. I digress – back to this slightly bizarre recommendation.
If any person is genuinely underweight, we have to not only consider what is going in, but what is, to put it bluntly, coming out. Is the person, regardless of their age, digesting and assimilating all the nutrients that we are expecting the food to provide? I often state in my seminars that we are not really what we eat. We are what we eat, digest, absorb, utilise, and fail to eliminate. Is there a digestive problem? Probably most people in “civilised” society have suboptimal digestion once they hit the age of 40, but the problem is becoming more of an issue in youth, especially if allergies have been diagnosed. If digestion is poor, the child may be underweight since assimilation will likewise be poor. I personally believe that frying food will add to these problems, not detract from them.
It is more common that people ask my counsel for weight loss; generally, as a society, we are more fixated on becoming slimmer. However, I also work with those who wish to gain muscular weight, generally to increase their sports performance. I’m not a dietitian though, so, as my website disclaimer states, seek professional advice regarding all aspects of your health…etc.
We absolutely must differentiate between “good” calories, which will allow us to gain healthy weight in a properly controlled manner, and “bad”, or empty calories, from junk food, which will ultimately do nothing for our health status, and gradually undermine it, although it may allow us to gain weight. The only weight we want on our bodies is muscle weight, not layers of subcutaneous fat!
When approaching a person keen to gain weight, regardless of age, I assess digestive capacity. I assess if probiotic levels might be depleted (they usually are). I ask questions regarding allergies. A full dietary and lifestyle history is taken. Likewise, I make suggestions regarding methods of food preparation that will maximise the digestibility and absorption of healthy foods, so that the person truly becomes fed at a cellular level. My suggestions also relate to maximising the blood antioxidant potential, one of the key factors in the prevention of disease.
My concerns with frying are as follows –
It is a massive free radical generator. Since free radical pathology is a proven cause of premature ageing and disease, it makes little sense to me to add to this damage by frying one’s food, and destroying the heat-labile antioxidants that are our only defence against free radical damage. It has been scientifically proven that those with low blood antioxidant status are at greater risk from all types of degenerative disease. I am going into this in much more detail in my seminar in London on Weds 18th April (this week!) and summarise why free radical pathology is such a problem for us in my CD “Oxidative Stress and the Link between Diet and Health”, which you can read more about here if you can’t make it to London:
Additionally, I was very concerned to read about studies linking cooks who regularly fry in a wok to a greatly increased risk of lung cancer as a result of the free radicals and toxins from the heated oil. Frying, in effect, turns health-giving oils into deranged fats that, to put it bluntly, stick in our arteries and kill us. The healthiest oils in their raw state turn into the most dangerous once heat is applied, and frying generates the hottest oil. Udo Erasmus, author of “Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill”, and one of the world’s leading authorities on oils and fats, states that we should NEVER fry food. I totally agree with this sentiment, and outline many other reasons for this in my CD “The Importance of Fat”, likewise available on my website via the following link:
There are however, people who will never heed good advice from experts such as Udo Erasmus, so for those who insist on continuing to fry, fry ONLY in coconut oil. Coconut oil is already fully saturated and is the most stable of all the fats at high temperatures.
I still remain perplexed though. As I stated at the outset, I may only have half the story on this particular case, but I remain stunned as to why a dietitian, who is clearly a highly qualified person of professional standing, would advise frying the food of an “underweight” child. I would not even consider this as the last available option, after exploration of all other avenues, including blending, the use of bioavailable plant based protein powders, smoothies containing avocado, and many other food options that I discuss with my clients to help them to reach their goals.
I’d love your comments on this post, so please let me know if you think frying is a good idea, and why!