There are many diets about but in reality there are only two weight loss diets – those that put you into ketosis and those that don’t. But why does that matter? Well it all depends on how quickly you want to lose the weight. The ones that do put you into ketosis can offer fast weight loss ( a stone a month) and the ones that don’t can only offer slow weight loss ( half a stone a month).
The reason why the body loses weight and fat faster on ketosis diets is because when the body, on a ketosis diet , will burn body fat for energy.
There are only 2 types of ketogenic diets (diets that make the body go into ketosis).
· Starvation Diets – effectively less than 750 / 520 calories a day
· Low Starch and Low Sugar Diets - sometimes called low carb diets.
The starvation diets are really easy to understand because we all know that when you starve yourself your body will have to use body fat for energy but the problem with these diets is that the body will burn muscle for energy which is not a good idea. The other problem with these diets is that they rely on shakes to deliver the nutritional profile required.
Low starch/ low sugar diets are more difficult to understand especially when the calorie intake is relatively high. Low starch and low sugar diets force the body into ketosis as the body can not convert the calories in protein and good fats and leafy green vegetables into glucose quickly and therefore it will look for a faster form of energy in the form of body fat. So eating a high protein low starch and sugar diet will force your body to burn body fat. Often people think that low carb means No Carbs or High Fat – This is not true at all.
Unlike the starvation diet, because calorie content remains relatively high, the metabolic rate does not drop and because the food is low starch and low sugar it tends to be nutrient rich.
Amongst all the panic and pontificating about the ‘obesity crisis’, we seem to have lost sight of one rather important thing. Gaining weight is natural. So is losing it. We’re not suddenly in the grip of a mystifying disease. Our bodies work the same way they always have, and why and how they get fatter and thinner remains pretty obvious too.
However, we seem to think that we can best control this problem with new and unnatural solutions: more often than not, the latest slickly marketed drugs. But last week yet another obesity drug was taken off the market after it was shown to have a high risk of causing mental health problems by attacking the body’s natural levels of serotonin.
This drug was lauded for reducing body mass by around 5%, but this is no great claim, after all. An intelligent diet and lifestyle programme can easily achieve a 5% reduction, with no side effects and in fact many additional positive implications, such as establishing a healthy, sustainable relationship with food, and feeling good about being able to control your own diet and life.
Of course, the ‘downside’ of this kind of real food, individually empowering programme is that it doesn’t make drug companies a lot of money. But that’s one downside that can make you feel good.
This morning I found a great new site in beta called Opposing Views, which pitches experts head-to-head on a whole range of issues, with a dedicated section for readers to respond and debate, and other tabs flagging up related news and links.
One of the recent questions posed is ‘are low-carb diets healthy?’ and there are some very interesting articles and opinions on the topic. Experts piling in to say ‘yes’ include Dr Richard Feinman, Professor of Biochemistry at Downstate Medical Center (SUNY) in New York and Dr Christopher D Gardner, Director of Nutrition Studies at the Stanford Prevention Research Center and an Associate Professor of Medicine at Stanford University.
There are already 20 lengthy comments from readers inspired by the debate, so why not go in and add your thoughts. Of course, not every low carb diet is alike or takes consideration of all the factors involved. And, as with every debate, emotional polemic and generalized waffle make an appearance too. But with both strong science and personal testimonials speaking up for low carb principles, it’s great to see low carb myths start to be smashed.
If you’re interested in health and nutrition, odds are you’ll know your BMI. Lots of diet websites offer calculators to work out your Body Mass Index so you can be easily labeled under, over, normal weight, or obese.
It’s long been acknowledged that your BMI can be dangerously misleading, but it’s become more notable recently with the furore over Nintendo’s Wii, which uses BMI to declare young children overweight. This week the Sun also published an investigation with readers and nutritionists bemoaning how easily BMI can fail to truly indicate an individual’s health.
The problem is that BMI focuses on height and weight alone; it does not tell you the ratio of fat to muscle mass and therefore people who are fundamentally slim often have a high BMI. Think of the English Rugby squad: they have a huge BMI but no-one could call them fat!
It’s far more helpful to take into account hip to waist ratio and muscle mass. And the great thing about high protein diets is that they focus on muscle and not weight. If you’re slim, feel fit and are medically fantastic, you’re certainly not a slave to the number on your scales.
As someone who sees so many people riddled with insecurities and confusion about their weight, I realize all too well BMI definitely does not help; thankfully the message has begun to spread.
Low GI is one of the buzzwords of the moment, and for excellent reason. Low GI foods that release energy slowly and sustainably, keeping glucose levels in your bloodstream steady, have indeed been shown to help regulate appetite and weight. High GI foods also tend to be the sugar and starch packed carbs which Go Lower avoids.
But the problem with buzzwords is that they tend to be seen in very simplistic terms, and Low GI needs a balanced approach rather than blind acceptance.
Fructose is a perfect example. The fact that this fruit sugar is ‘natural and ‘low GI’ leads many to believe it to be an ideal component of a healthy diet. However, a recent research paper on fructose by George A Bray, a specialist on obesity and metabolism (you can read it online here), highlights just how misguided this is, linking fructose to metabolic risks, obesity and gout.
Of course, fruit is still a great option, as the fructose is balanced with plenty of fibre and water. But it’s worth remembering that sugar is sugar, low GI or not, and carries with it many of the same health implications. My advice would be to avoid fructose wherever you can in its crystalline or liquid form – which often means you often have to check the label of foods for unwelcome hidden extras.
And don’t forget that every diet ‘rule’ should be taken with a pinch of salt!
I’d like to start the week by highlighting another study which has just been published on the net before being printed. Its a paper on the efficacy of low carb vs low fat diets in the treatment of adolescents with obesity, by Israel’s respected Institute for Endocrinology and Diabetes, and definitely worth a read.
The main findings corroborate the basis of Go Lower: that a low carb programme helps you loose as much or more weight as a high carb, low fat regime. But the paper also shows that the insulin profile of the low carb test group was significantly improved compared to the low fat group; which is extremely important for overall health, and especially so considering our increasing levels of diabetes in the UK.
It seems incredible that people are still recommending a starch based diet when the science against it is rock solid. In fact, it seems irresponsible. Can we really afford to ignore such research when obesity and diabetes are such a threat?
Further to my post, yesterday, I thought I’d flag up this great video of Gary Taubes talking about the relationship between fat and calories in February this year, on the back of his new book ‘Good Calories, Bad Calories’. Gary is a respected American science journalist, here talking at the Stevens Institute of Technology, and he explains the necessary shift in thinking brilliantly.
I spotted the video on Regina Wilshire’s Weight of the Evidence blog, another very interesting resource that’s well worth a read.
Get into a conversation about weight loss, and it’s pretty inevitable that calories will make a starring appearance. Whether you’re counting, restricting or just generally obsessing over them, they’ve become the be-all and end-all of so many diet plans.
But many scientists remain unconvinced of their importance. Another piece of research has been published in a respectable journal showing that many of the current assumptions about how calories impact on our weight are simply not true.
In his research paper Dietary Glycemic Index and Obesity, DS Ludwig explains:
The concept that “a calorie is a calorie” underlies most conventional weight loss strategies. According to this principle, obesity results from an imbalance between energy intake and expenditure. The proposed cure is to eat less and exercise more. However, calorie-restricted, low fat diets have poor long-term effectiveness in the outpatient setting. In a sense, these diets may constitute symptomatic treatment that does not address the physiologic drives to overeat. From a hormonal standpoint, all calories are not alike.
Check out the full article here. It makes interesting for anyone interested in health and nutrition; those of us following Go Lower will know that it’s borne out in practice, not just theory.
Every day I’m lucky enough to speak face to face with a great variety of women and men about their health and diet problems, and each story is always fascinating in it’s own way.
One issue that seems to keep coming up is the problem of age and weight loss. As someone who is now definitely middle aged, I know as well as anyone how our bodies change and how frustrating it can be! What worked fine in our twenties suddenly seems to make us pile on the pounds later in life. A classic complaint I hear is from women who lost several stone on Weight Watchers or a similar calorie counting scheme a couple of decades ago, but now find that it just won’t work to shift their middle-aged spread.
Now, I do know two scientific certainties about age: both our metabolic rate and our levels of human growth hormone decrease. When you restrict calories in your youth, the higher metabolic rate combined with the active human growth hormone means that you can lose those extra pounds by just eating a little less. But for us oldies, the reduction in calories needs to be very dramatic to have much impact – our bodies sensibly adjust their metabolic rate to make the most of the reduced calories.
You might have some success if you team eating less with a very rigorous exercise routine, but of course age also makes this more difficult as our mobility and flexibility decrease. So shifting the emphasis from restricting calories to eating in a different way altogether is the one way to ensure a really bright, long future. I’ve been Going Lower as I get older – and I’ve never felt so young.
As the wife of a GP, I know that most GPs know very little about diet and nutrition. This isn’t a criticism, just a fact of life – I’m sure that most GPs would admit that their training simply doesn’t cover biochemistry to any great level of detail in relation to food. General medical training is by necessity broad, and biochemisty is a very specialist field.
What’s surprising is that we don’t see more biochemists involved in the obesity debate. All sorts of specialists from nutritionists and dieticians, to epidemiologists and nurses speak out publicly, but their training rarely involves studying biochemistry to the level truly required to understand how our bodies process carbs, proteins and fats.
Why all the emphasis on biochemists? Well, when I first started looking at the issue of weight control in depth, I found them to be the only people that could answer my difficult questions on how our bodies react to different food groups. Biochemists showed me that when the body takes in too much glucose it will turn that glucose into saturated fats, and that the foods that turn to glucose easily are starch and sugar. The ones I spoke to found it obvious that the levels of starch and sugar in our diet are directly impacting on obesity.
Basing the Go Lower programme on the advice of true experts seemed a basic principle to me. But when it comes to weight loss, it can seem revolutionary!