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Dr Marilyn Glenville discusses the nutritional advice that she would give all women, and why…

I would like women to realise that sugar and foods that are broken down into sugar quickly – white flour, for example – are the major culprits behind many of their health problems. Many of the symptoms that women experience, from irritability, anxiety and insomnia, to palpitations, headaches and fatigue, are often due to fluctuating blood sugar levels caused by caffeine and sugar, as well as long gaps without eating.

Low- or no-fat alternatives are not the answer, as a low-fat fruit yogurt (even organic) could contain eight teaspoons of added sugar. Added sugar and caffeine should be eliminated for 80 per cent of the time and people should also eat little and often, ideally every three hours.

Most women I see are exhausted, which often ties in with their stressful lives and is reflected in the way they eat. Food and drink such as coffee and chocolate provide a quick fix but create a vicious cycle of highs and lows; the lows cause a release of the stress hormones and they end up feeling even more stressed.

Following a stressful event, increased cortisol levels cause an appetite surge because the body thinks it should refuel after all the fighting or fleeing. Women under constant stress quite often feel constantly hungry, craving carbohydrates and fats, often in the form of high-sugar, high-fat comfort and convenience food.

If the body does not fight or flee as expected, the fat and glucose gets deposited as fat around the middle of the body and any sugary or fatty foods eaten due to the poststress appetite surge will potentially cause further weight gain there too.

PS. Dr Marilyn Glenville will be hosting the lectures: Fat around the middle – risks of cancer and other illness (7 July, 1pm-1.45pm) and Natural solutions to the menopause (8 July, 2pm-3.15pm). www.fht.org.uk/50

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