Tips for a well-balanced nutritional program
There’s no one perfect diet for everyone with a neuromuscular disease. The right program depends on your health profile, tastes and lifestyle. But nutritionists and physicians agree that, in general, the best weight loss plan involves well-balanced nutrition.
Diet gurus may proclaim the miraculous effects of one kind of “macronutrient” over another — protein, fat, carbohydrate, grapefruit, whatever — but the bottom line for losing weight still comes down to calorie count.
Low-carbohydrate diets that are high in fat (such as Atkins) can lead to rapid weight loss, but the long-term health effects, safety and ability to maintain the weight loss are questionable, many physicians warn.
For adults, limiting calories to 1,500 a day while increasing activity should result in weight loss over the long run, counsels nutritionist Megan McCrory. Calories shouldn’t drop below 1,200 a day for adults, she adds.
Despite some recent criticism, the FDA food pyramid guidelines, combined with moderate exercise, produced good results over time in people with neuromuscular diseases, according to UC Davis research.
The main problem dieters face is hunger. Neuromuscular specialist Mark Tarnopolsky and Sandy Calvin, a clinical dietitian who consults at the Vicki Appel MDA Neuromuscular Clinic at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, suggest these ways of taming the hunger monster:
Instead, choose carbs that are as close as possible to their natural state, such as fruits and vegetables, whole-grain cereals and breads. They won’t cause hunger by briefly spiking, then dropping, blood sugar and insulin levels.
Be careful with over-the-counter appetite suppressants that contain stimulants such as ephedrine or ma huang. These can cause anxiety, heart palpitations and fatal heart arrhythmias, which are especially dangerous if your NMD can lead to cardiomyopathy (as in Becker or Duchenne muscular dystrophy), or cardiac conduction disturbances (as in myotonic MD).