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Healthy eating can kill you

Published April 21. 2012 09:01AM

There is a new warning for those people overly concerned with eating healthy.

You could end up developing orthorexia.

It's an illness that begins with an extreme obsession with healthy eating and then turns into obsession.

At its worst, the illness causes orthorexics to cut out entire classes of food, such as carbs or fats.

It can lead to malnutrition, say medical experts.

The term orthorexia was coined by Steven Bratman, MD, a physician in Fort Collins, Colorado, to describe the fixation on healthy eating that may be a cross between an eating disorder and obsessive compulsive behavior.

Ortho is derived from a Greek word meaning "right" or "correct," and rexia means "appetite."

It's easy to see why something like this can happen.

We're bombarded with health alerts that are contradictory and confusing.

For instance, we try to stay away from the empty calories of sugar and sweetened soft drinks. There are those who say sugar is essentially poison.

But now they say diet soda might lead to cancer and obesity.

Some say diet soda causes people to crave carbs. Plus drinking soda from aluminum cans might may lead to Alzheimers.

In fact, talk show host Jane Velez-Mitchell has just announced she's given up sugar. Jane already was a vegan.

I can only guess that her next step will be to eat only bean sprouts and water. Sounds like the start of orthorexia.

Just ask Kristie Rutzel of Richmond, Va. The college student nearly died in her mid-20s due to an obsession with healthy food. She became a vegetarian, then a vegan. Then she went to strictly a raw-food diet. It got to where her diet was nothing more than organic cauliflower and broccoli.

She said she started out at 120 pounds, and dropped 60 pounds because of her rigid diet. Doctors told her parents she was going to die and advised them to prepare for a funeral. Thank goodness she recovered.

But Rutzel's case proves that orthorexia is very real.

Another young gal, Kate Finn, died in 2003 after her weight dropped due to a so-called healthy diet. The official cause was heart failure brought on by starvation.

Experts say the best treatment for orthorexia is cognitive behavior therapy, similar to that used to treat depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. The treatment basically tries to change obsessive thought patterns relating to food.

All things considered, I think we should just eat in moderation.

It doesn't take Einstein to figure out that diets and obsessions are bad.

Too much broccoli is just as bad as too many brownies. We need to eat sensibly and reduce our portions.

Why not enjoy a wide variety of food and forget about the craziness of diets?

Let's face it. Nothing is safe. If we listen to experts, all foods cause cancer. The sun causes cancer. Probably the moon causes cancer, too. Life causes cancer.

It's time for people to stop obsessing about healthy eating and instead move forward with the understanding that all things are okay in moderation.

So as the summer picnic season approaches, I'm making changes, starting with grilling. I'll watch the portions and I intend to use chicken, not hamburger. After watching the TV news, I've lost my appetite for pink slime.

I don't want to eat a burger that looks like it was marinated in pepto-bismol. It's yucky enough to make me switch to broccoli.

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