On my homepage, I discussed the recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine about how a low carbohydrate diet beat out a low fat diet for weight loss and cardiovascular risk markers. After noting my biases, exploring the basic biochemical assumptions, reviewing the evidence that supports it, and being open-minded to the pitfalls of the study, here’s my conclusion:
“Diet”- It’s a Dirty Word…
Diets in general are “restrictive.”Although initially diets can help with weight loss, if overall nutritional status is ignored, there could be consequences.
Quality of Food and Caloric Restriction
Diets high in carbohydrate and low in fat could translate to low quality foods which are high in sugar, gluten, and refined foods. These factors can all cause metabolic derangement.
Furthermore, according to recent evidence, caloric restriction is only beneficial for longevity and health if all nutritional requirements are met. Genetics and individual needs need to be considered. For example, a recent follow-up study with monkeys demonstrated overall health benefits and life extension with caloric restriction. These results contraindicated a 2012 study by different researchers. The authors of the current study conclude that other factors are at play in regard to efficacy of a caloric restricted diet:
In addition to the differences in age of onset and feeding protocols, other important points of difference between the studies include diet composition (UW diet was purified and high in sucrose content) and genetic origin of the monkeys (Indian at UW, Chinese and Indian at NIA). It is highly likely that factors important in ageing that are not evident in either study independently will emerge from the analysis of the aggregate data.
Furthermore, women run the risk of losing fertility on a caloric restricted diet. Also, without proper supervision and consideration of nutrient status, hormonal health and environment, caloric restriction can also lead to preoccupation with food and eating disorders.
Mark Houstan, MD, describes the mechanism of action of a proper caloric restricted diet (30-40 percent reduced calories) that is anti-inflammatory and nutrient dense. In an article for Style Blue Print, heoffers a more doable alternative:
Caloric restriction with a diminished energy intake forces an optimization of the metabolism and may alter the entire genetic programs through the SIRT and AMPK genes. It reduces cellular damage and disrupts certain hormonal levels.
Fasting for 12-14 hours 3-4 days a week may be another option, “this achieves caloric restriction and increases growth hormone and male and female sex hormones, but reduces insulin and cortisol levels and may alter calorie-induced modification of aging genes.
Swap the Diet for Health and Nutrition
Studies do show that dietary adherence wanes over time. Rather than restrict yourself to a diet, consider the following:
1. A personalized nutrition plan for your current health needs
For example, low carb, high fat diets show efficacy in neurological conditions but may not be best for a hypoglycemic.
2. If Paleo- Think Personalized
Studies have shown that even “Paleo” diets may not be as low carb as most think. Therefore, it’s important to consider your hunger cues, hormonal health, and laboratory metabolic markers to determine if what you are doing is correct for you.
3. Toxic fat
Toxicity has a role in weight loss. No matter how much weight you lose, if you have lots of chemicals stored in your fat, your body will be hesitant to release it into the blood stream for fear of harming you. Therefore, make sure your digestive function and liver health is optimized to maximize and maintain fat loss.
4. Individualize Your Plan with These Additional Factors
All of factors below affect weight; it’s not just about what TYPE of food.
a. Microbioime composition (see my blogs on gut bugs)
b. Quality of foods
e. Digestive health (you are what you eat, absorb, eliminate, and assimilate)
f. Activity level
g. Genetics- Variants in genes will determine how you burn calories with different types of exercise, detoxify environmental toxins, digest and assimilate, respond to stress, and if whether you are more sensitive to hormonal and glucose fluctuations.
So, the take home point is this: the more you focus on how you feel, individualize your approach to what works for you in the long-run (vs. the latest fad), and find objective ways to track your health, the less you’ll be victim to weight loss fads and more in tune with what works for you!
Nalam et al. Journal of Biology 2008 7:23 doi:10.1186/jbiol84
Fox, E. Live A Long and Healthy Life: Tips for Any Age. Style Blue Print. March 7, 2013. http://styleblueprint.com/nashville/everyday/resetting-biological-clock-slow-aging-process/
Coleman, et al. Caloric restriction reduces age-related and all-cause mortality in rhesus monkeys. Nature Communications.5 (3557). doi:10.1038/ncomms4557
Newman, J. Diet alone will not likely lead to significant weight loss. Eurekalert. August 13, 2010. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-04/ohs-daw041310.php
National Institute of Aging. NIH study finds calorie restriction does not affect survival. NIA. August 29, 2012. http://www.nia.nih.gov/newsroom/2012/08/nih-study-finds-calorie-restriction-does-not-affect-survival
Fruit fly: http://dr-lobisco.com/the-taste-of-health/
Kresser, C. 7 Things Everyone Should Know About Low-Carb Diets. ChrisKresser.com