By their own decision, 40% of the Spanish population renounces the consumption of certain foods or nutrients.
In the same vein, a quarter of Spaniards have a lactose-free diet, although in 61% of cases it is not medically justified.
And with those who follow a gluten-free diet (8%), more of the same happens: 72% follow it because they think it’s appropriate.
These are some of the data collected in the report “Spanish food exclusion trend”, presented by the Spanish Academy of Nutrition and Dieteticsthat, from the hand of the Mapfre Foundationpromote awareness regarding the “self-prescription” food refers to.
And it is that in recent years, the negative connotation that certain components, such as gluten or lactose, have caused the population in general to modify their eating behavior, without them being aware of what it can mean for their health long-term.
Exclusion diet for Spaniards
With a sample of 3,150 respondents as a representative proportion of the Spanish population, trends can be distinguished that we are beginning to see in our environments.
- Gluten-free or low-gluten diet. According to the proportions collected in the aforementioned report, 8% of Spaniards exclude gluten from their diet, extending this condition to their family to 70% of respondents. The curious thing is that 72% do it without professional justification, not knowing that to replace gluten, hydrogenated fats are often used, the consumption of which is particularly harmful to our cardiovascular health.
- Lactose-free diet: This is the exclusion regime most followed by the Spanish population. It is clear that, of the 25% of Spaniards who comply with this diet, only 39% do so in a justified way.
- Flexitarian, vegetarian or vegan diet: In the case of the flexitarian diet we are talking about a low intake of meat. 7% of the population refuses to consume the recommended proportions and, when they do, prioritize white and lean meat. On the other hand, vegetarians reach 4%, renouncing all kinds of meat, but not animal derivatives such as milk and eggs. Vegans, only 0.8% of Spaniards, exclude any type of food of animal origin from their diet.
Flexitarians, vegans, vegetarians… without risk?
The above three are dietary patterns that do not necessarily lead to health problems, despite what many believe. Of course, as a preventive measure they should all be supplemented with vitamin B12. And if it were so, there would be no repercussions on our health.
It is clear that the president of the Spanish Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Giuseppe Rusolillostands out:
“Only half of vegetarians and vegans say they supplement and a low percentage say they have received advice”
Here’s the problem. It’s not about the type of diet, it’s about following it from ignorance.
Beware of transferring these habits to the family nucleus!
These “new concerns” for well-being, self-care of health and quality of food concern more women and, in general, the middle-aged population.
But that’s not all: the most frequent thing is that these restrictions become part of the family habit, entailing considerable danger also for the little ones.
In this sense, Rusolillo, nuance.
“There is no unbiased evidence that substituting one type of milk for another affects children’s growth, but we do know that it may pose a risk to the required intake of calcium, which is linked to the growing”
Consequences of unfounded decisions
The point is that the key concept in this context is none other than that of balance.
A diet that contains the essential nutrients for the proper functioning of the body and, thus, preventing diseases associated with any nutritional imbalance is the reference to which we should aspire.
Because, if you didn’t, we would be facing serious health risks, such as:
- Vitamin B12 deficiency: usually associated with a vegetarian diet or vegan. Among the consequences that result from this deficiency we find the mild or moderate ones as can be typical tiredness, weakness or until the bad memory. Although it can also lead to more serious problems like
- Megaloblastic anemia: A type of anemia in which the bone marrow produces enlarged, immature, and dysfunctional red blood cells.
- Lack of fiber: dispense with gluten or lowering your intake can have consequences such as a lack of fiber, intrinsically related to gastrointestinal problems.
- Lack of vitamin D: Another consequence of following a gluten-free or low-gluten diet without professional diagnosis.
- Nutrient deficiency (iron, zinc, magnesium, calcium): from classic anemia to reduce gluten in our diet to insufficient calcium intake in our diet to give up products with lactose. In the case of calcium deficiency, we are talking about an unquestionable impact on our health and, specifically, on our bone health.
And our pocket?
But we no longer only talk about the dangerous consequences on our health when following food trends that do not fit our needs, but to this we add the cost overrun to do it
The economic situation has meant, as a general rule, an increase in the prices of basic food consumer goods, such as eggs.
But if we add to this the extra price involved in consuming those products that are specifically aimed at sectors of the population with intolerances, we would be needlessly diminishing our economic capacity.
But… why do we feel better?
It is clear that, even without knowing whether they really need it or not, there are many who prefer to pay more for these products. The reason? the improvement they notice due to the change in diet.
It may be a decision based on suspicion, but it is very common to talk about a short-term improvement in this regard.
Eva Arranz, doctor at the Mapfre Foundation, says that it cannot be ignored before to talk about a better one later. When we talk about this improvement, it indicates that it depends on the type of diet.
“We can notice a feeling of well-being if we used to abuse a food, but this does not mean that the solution is to give it up,” the expert points out.
Dr. Rusolillo goes further and is specific: When we talk about gluten, for example, most of the population has some type of intolerance (such as hypersensitivity) and doesn’t know it. Of course, this does not mean that the diagnosis of a nutritionist is not necessary.
The “less healthy” label and the rejection of additives
Palm oil, hydrogenated or trans fats, sweetened beverages, industrial pastries… There are many foods that arouse suspicion as a general rule in the consumer.
But, although there are many reasons that support this conception, Giuseppe Rusolillo highlights the contrariety that supposes that, for some, additives should be added to this list of harmful foods or components.
They are key to food safety and the consumption of food in good condition. These additives are regulated in dosage and use by legislation”, he says.
7 out of 10 Spaniards, despite this, confess to avoiding them. And, as you would expect, for no good reason.
The way you struggle with food has changed over the years. Health is a factor of increasing concern, but acting out of ignorance can be just as harmful as apathy.
“Concerning health and trying to modify aspects related to lifestyle, such as nutrition is a positive aspect,” says Dr. Arranz.
But he does not fail to emphasize the fact that an exclusion diet, the new trend among Spaniards, cannot be based on self-diagnosis, nor be carried out without the correct advice and monitoring.