A balanced intake is necessary to maintain healthy weight and overall health. However, this could be challenging due to the lifestyle we lead. People tend to have increased intake and decreased expenditure of calories. Having said that, consuming a very low calorie diet is also harmful.
Malnutrition exists on both sides of the spectrum- over-nutrition and under-nutrition.
Consuming lesser than adequate calories (keeping in mind your requirement as per clinical and physical parameters.) on a daily basis can lead to several physical, mental and emotional issues.
According to Delnaz Chanduwadia, Chief Dietician and Nutritionist, Jaslok Hospital, these are the ways in which a low calorie diet can affect you.
Consumption of less food itself is like less fuel to the car. Lesser than 1000 kcals per day is termed as a Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD). Most people at least need 1000 calories – as per their resting metabolic rate (RMR). However, consuming less than 1000 kcals can reduce your metabolic rate causing low energy levels and fatigue.
A low calorie diet would also mean less intake of protein. Protein is most important for the upkeep of these tissues. The lack of protein could lead to brittle nails, hair loss, dry skin. This is also because of the lack of intake of other nutrients apart from protein which are needed for the up keep.
Hormonal balance is the key to all life processes. Getting pregnant is one of them. Research has shown sensitivity towards hormonal changes when there is a change in calorie intake and changes in weight. Most hormones are also fat based, so when the intake of fat drops – this hormone signaling is impaired. The first symptom of this is amenhorrhea. In order to ensure pregnancy and a healthy baby, one needs to eat a well balanced diet.
Leptin and ghrelin are hormones regulate hunger and satiety. Leptin is responsible for suppressing hunger. A very low calorie intake throws these hormones out of whack, causing one to constantly feel hungry.
Having said that, a very low calorie diet also tends to increase stress hormone cortisol- which is linked to hunger and for causing an increase in belly fat.
If you don’t eat right and don’t eat enough, it is possible to have mood swings or irritability. A balanced diet is the key if you want to be upbeat.
Less food intake means lesser bowel movements. However, this could also be attributed to the fact that one is consuming less fiber and less protein. Less fiber means less bulk formation for stools to form. Less protein means reduced intestinal tone, causing constipation. Both these factors contribute greatly and this would mean an altered intestinal gut flora and altered immunity.
Overeating and under-eating can cause problems with sleep. Calorie restriction causes a drop in “deep sleep” phase. The person wakes up tired and not well-rested. This affects one’s mood and leads to irritability, lack of focus at work and constant feeling of hunger.
These are a few issues of due to very low calorie diet. Hence, it is important to consult a qualified nutritionist and get a personalized plan.