Ditching carbs for high-protein diets? S'pore experts warn of dangers

Even as the authorities are getting Singaporeans to eat more healthily, a growing number of people are swinging to the other extreme - avoiding carbohydrates and going high-protein.

But health experts are warning that this is not necessarily a good thing.

Restaurants and gym instructors told My Paper that they are seeing more people opt for such diet options in a bid to stay leaner.

One such "convert" is Bazil Zainal, a 22-year-old undergraduate at the National University of Singapore. For the last two months, he has been avoiding carbs and sugary foods, taking mainly protein instead.

Said Mr Bazil, who has lost 8kg in that time: "I decided to do it because I realised that I need to start taking care of my health before it becomes worse. I am already feeling the effects of being overweight, such as knee pain."

Restaurants such as Caveman Food - located at the basement of Square 2 - which serves dishes based on its Paleo Diet concept, are cashing in. It has seen a 5 per cent increase in business month-on-month since it opened in September.

Restaurant owner Michael Tan, 44, said that he has seen growing interest in his Paleo meals, which contain mostly meat and no grains or gluten.

"The office crowd makes up about half of my customers. They are more health conscious and are willing to pay more for healthier meals," said Mr Tan, who serves about 100 customers during lunchtime.

Over at Sushi Burrito, owner Sherry Ang is considering making her seasonal "Skinny Sumo" roll a permanent item on the menu. The roll, which only has meat and vegetables but no rice, has become popular with diners, said the 27-year-old.

Hawkers whom My Paper spoke to also agreed that customers, especially those in their 20s and 30s, are cutting down on rice and noodles.

Mr Chong, who helps out at Ichiban Seafood Sliced Fish Soup at Seah Im Food Centre, said that half of his customers now request for less or no rice and noodles.

"They ask for more fish and vegetables instead," he added. "They're more knowledgeable about different types of food now, and what type of food is be good for their health."

While health experts acknowledge that cutting down on carbs can help to shed pounds, they caution against forgoing carbs altogether, or consuming too much protein.

"High-protein diets are also usually high-fat and sacrifice carbohydrates and vitamins, which are important for a balanced diet," said Dr Ong Joo Haw of Khoo Teck Puat Hospital's Sports Medicine Centre.

Fabian Lim, associate professor of Exercise Physiology & Metabolic Disease at Nanyang Technological University's Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, added: "Carbohydrates are a key source of fuel that support the functions of the body's cells and organs, especially the brain.

"Prolonged and excessive negative energy intake is technically a state of 'malnutrition' and can cause our health to deteriorate over time."


Get MyPaper for more stories.