Consultants again Kolkata Municipal Company concern over fitness center meals dietary supplements

KOLKATA: Citing frequent cases of health regime going awry, dieticians and nutrition experts have backed the civic crackdown on gymnasiums for recommending dubious food supplements that promise a chiseled physique in quicktime.

Last week, food inspectors and health officers of the (KMC) were asked to check whether gyms were running with valid licences and if they had trainers and dieticians who were qualified for the job. is also planning to issue a guideline for gymnasiums that will prohibit recommendation of food supplements.

The KMC action was prompted by a complaint lodged by a youngster who suffered muscle swelling and breathing distress after taking a protein supplement recommended by the trainer at his neighbourhood gym. He had to seek treatment at the Apollo Gleneagles Hospital for swelling in his neck and a severe allergy attack. “They promised a 10-kg weight loss and six packs in two months. One day, the instructor came and handed me a protein pack saying I could buy it from him at a price 35% lower than the market rate. It will help, he said, and I purchased it immediately,” he said.

In about two weeks, the youngster started feeling the effects. “Instead of muscles, I got a severe body ache and swelling. I couldn’t move my neck and had allergic rashes all over the body. More importantly, I had no energy to even go out of the house,” he said. After a week-long treatment at Apollo, he has been taken to a hospital in Hyderabad.

Being lured into dubious food supplements that promise quick weight loss or rippling six packs could cost you dearly, warn doctors. Instead of a chiseled physique, you could be left with muscle swelling, dehydration or severe malnutrition and even suffer a sudden cardiac arrest, they pointed out. Most such supplements prescribed either by the city gymnasiums or their instructors are loaded with protein that often trigger electrolyte imbalance.

“The tendency is to replace carbohydrates and fat with just a protein diet. Youngsters aiming for a six-pack easily get swayed and start taking these protein-rich supplements for quick results. What they don’t realize is that that they are being persuaded to accept an imbalanced diet, which could be dangerous. Instead of helping to build muscles, lack of carbohydrate may cause severe electrolyte imbalance leading to a drastic fall in energy level. A fat-free diet, too, could lead to severe fatigue,” said RN Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences consultant Arindam Biswas.

In several gyms across the city, trainers with rippling muscles push whey protein supplements, reasoning that the body needs to be replenished with adequate protein intake to compensate for the intensive workout sessions with machines. Though most gyms discourage promotion or sale of whey protein on the premises, it is rampant. Often, it is a personal trainer on the gym floor who suggests the need for consuming whey protein, convincing the gym member that natural foods cannot provide the amount of nutrition that a body requires after an intense workout. He then offers the expensive product at an attractive discounted rate. The transaction usually happens outside the gym.

While trainers push the product to supplement their income as the gym management corners 60% of the earnings from personal training, the whey products they purchase from the grey market are also not genuine at times.

Also, the supplements are often laced with steroids. “Steroids harm the kidneys and should be strictly avoided,” said TK Mukherjee, advisor to the KMC health department.

Times View

This issue has become more important with the growing number of gym enthusiasts. The pressure to get that perfectly sculpted body as quickly as possible is often responsible for indiscriminate use of protein and hormone supplements. A crackdown is necessary but it should not be indiscriminate; it has to be done fairly and there should be round-the-year monitoring instead of off-and-on crackdowns.

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