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Seven ‘healthy’ mistakes you need to avoid, including getting too much sleep

Mirror logo Mirror 3/05/2017 Caroline Jones

1 Switching to diet soft drinks

Many people swap to sugar-free canned drinks when trying to lose weight in the belief that they are doing them some good.

But last week a US study revealed that drinking them regularly could triple your risk of having a stroke or suffering from dementia.

The report by scientists at Boston University found that artificially-sweetened beverages had, for reasons as yet unknown, a much stronger link to these serious health issues than their sugar-packed counterparts.

And previous studies have also suggested that far from aiding weight loss, diet drinks can actually trick the body into expecting sugar and therefore lead to weight gain.

Credits: Getty Images © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: Getty Images One study, published in the journal Diabetes, found older people who drank daily diet fizzy drinks saw their waistlines expand five times more over a decade than their peers who didn’t drink any.

Correct it: If you’re addicted to fizzy drinks, one way to wean yourself off them is to try sipping sparkling water with a dash of pure lime juice or slices of orange instead.

2 Taking vitamins at breakfast

Seven out of 10 of us take a supplement in the morning, but latest research has found that certain breakfast foods and drinks can stop you absorbing the vitamins in your daily pill.

A study by the University of East Anglia this month found that hot food, such as porridge, inhibited the absorption of iron in multivitamins by nearly three-quarters.

Similarly, the polyphenols contained in tea and coffee could prevent you absorbing other important minerals, such as zinc, magnesium and calcium.

Credits: Getty Images © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: Getty Images Correct it: GP and medical nutritionist Dr Sarah Brewer says most supplements are best taken not with food but immediately after it, when the already activated stomach acids will help digest them. 

In fact, just a few bites of food before taking your vitamin pill will trigger the breakdown process and boost its absorption.

And you should only wash down tablets with water. “Ideally, tea, coffee and hot chocolate should not be drunk within two hours of taking an iron-containing supplement,” she adds.

3 Assuming herbal means safe

Credits: Getty Images © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: Getty Images It’s a common mistake to think that all herbal products must be safe because they are ‘natural’.

But as Dr Dick Middleton, Chairman of the British Herbal Medicine Association, points out: “All medicines have risks and benefits, and herbal medicines are no exception, with some affecting the way prescription medications work.”

For example, St John’s Wort, taken for low mood, can stop the contraceptive pill working and can make some people’s skin more susceptible to sunburn.

Also, not all herbal products are of the same quality. “Many unlicensed products have been shown when tested to be low-quality or even contaminated and therefore dangerous,” adds Dr Middleton.

Correct it: “Always look for herbal products that have a ‘THR’ logo, which means they’re guaranteed by the UK medicines licensing authority to be of consistent quality and safe to use after following the advice in the accompanying leaflet,” says Dr Middleton. The leaflet will also outline any possible drug interactions you need to be aware of.

4 Filling up on fibre

Credits: Getty Images © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: Getty Images Experts have been telling us for years to ‘eat more fibre’ to boost our digestion –and for the most part it’s a good message.

But if you’re one of the 10-20% of people who have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), too much fibre can make the problem even worse, leaving you bloated or in pain.

Professor Julian Walters, gastroenterologist and author of What’s Up With Your Gut, sees many IBS patients who say their bowels have got much worse since they started eating more fibre.

“Often they’ve added too much bran, fruit or lentils to their diet, which can cause gas and bloating and worsen diarrhoea,” explains Prof Walters.

Correct it: New research shows that many IBS sufferers find reducing a group of foods known as FODMAPs can help ease their symptoms.

These foods include certain fruit, veg and grains that have been found to ferment and produce gases in the stomach as they’re digested.

5 Blocking vitamin Dwith sunscreen

Credits: Getty Images © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: Getty Images Over the last 20 years, our greater understanding of the relationship between sun exposure and skin cancer has led medical professionals to advise everyone to wear sunscreen daily to protect skin from the harmful UV rays that cause damage.

But in this country we also have an epidemic of Vitamin D deficiency with up to 40% of Britons lacking in this vital nutrient. This is because our bodies rely on sun exposure to make 90% of the so-called ‘sunshine’ vitamin, which is essential for healthy bones and a strong immune system.

And there’s now mounting evidence that Vitamin D is also important for a healthy heart – and may help fight cancer and diabetes too.

Correct it: Skin doctor Johanna Ward (theskinclinic.org.uk) says: “While it’s vital to protect your skin from the sun, you should also supplement your Vitamin D levels. The best form to take is D3 because it’s the most easy to absorb. I recommend a daily dose of 1000-2000IU.” Try Vitabiotics Ultra D3 (£5.39, from Boots).

Credits: Getty Images © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: Getty Images Healthspan’s Head of Nutrition Rob Hobson warns that eating lots of honey in the belief that it’s healthier than plain old granulated sugar is a diet mistake many of us are making.

“Even though it’s a natural sweetener, honey still contains 17g (3.4 tsp) of ‘added sugar’ per tablespoon – that’s more than half your recommended healthy limit of 6 tsp per day,” he

points out.

Honey is also often touted as being rich in minerals, such as iron, but Hobson is unconvinced. He says: “You’d need to take 123 teaspoons of it to get even a small amount.”

And don’t fall for the trend of thinking maple or agave syrup as sweeteners are any better for you either. Like honey, these syrupy liquid sugars are denser than normal sugar, so one tablespoon actually contains more calories than the same size spoonful of granulated. Which means overdo them and you’ll gain just as much if not more weight.

Correct it: The bottom line is that there’s no such thing as a healthy sweetener. And all of them – be it sugar, honey or maple syrup – should be used in moderation.

7 Sleeping too much

Our bodies repair themselves during sleep, but getting 10 or more hours a night may be as damaging to our health as getting less than six, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine claims.

Credits: Getty Images © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: Getty Images Researchers found the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes is even higher among people who slept for too long. Experts aren’t sure why this is, but another study by Arizona State University found that getting people to stay in bed for just two extra hours a night caused more back pain, depressed mood and “increases in inflammation” –specifically, higher blood levels of a protein called IL-6 linked to heart disease and other serious illnesses. 

Lead researcher Professor Shawn Youngstedt concluded the problem with longer sleeps may be the prolonged inactivity that goes with them.

Correct it: People getting a standard seven hours a night have the lowest risk of serious disease, according to research. If you struggle to sleep, try keeping the hour before bed screen-free – that means no TV, tablets or smartphones. Research shows this screen break can help you drop off more easily.

© Getty Images

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