The following information may be triggering to those with eating disorders. Please be mindful should you continue reading. 

 

A severe and life-threatening disorder, Binge Eating Disorder is characterized by recurring episodes of excessive food consumption. A recent but important addition to the officially recognised list of disorders, binge eating is capable of immense harm to the body and mind. Let’s understand what exactly this disorder entails. 

Basics of Binge Eating: 

 

People who binge eat are not just driven by hunger or due to a metabolic need. For some it’s the hedonistic value, for others compulsion to eat and yet others for the stress relief. Binge eating is a behaviour which develops into Binge Eating Disorder. 

 

Diagnosis: 

 

A binge eating episode is characterized by the following: 

 

  1. Eating a significantly large quantity of food than most people would eat in the same period of time, in similar circumstances 
  2. Experiencing a lack of control with eating during this episode 

 

Binge eating episodes are also accompanied with at least three of the following: 

 

  1. Eating faster than normal 
  2. Eating until feeling uncomfortably full 
  3. Eating large quantities of food despite not being physically hungry
  4. Eating alone out of embarrassment for food quantity
  5. Feelings of self-disgustion, depression and guilt from overeating 

 

Mukbang: A growing trend this past year among Youtube vloggers are ‘Mukbangs’, where people eat ridiculous amounts of food on camera. These videos have both a positive and negative impact, where some feel that mukbangs encourage healthy appetites and others find it normalizes eating disorders. 

 

Warning Signs: 

 

Binge eating is an insidious disorder, it gradually develops over a period of time. Be wary of these warning signs: 

  • Stealing or hoarding of food in strange places
  • Withdrawing from friends and usual activities 
  • Going on-and-off on diets 
  • Uncomfortable while eating around others 

 

Symptoms: 

 

Binge eating directly impacts your physiology and psychology, it comes with a plethora of symptoms. They include 

  • Fluctuations of weight, both increase and decrease. 
  • Stomach cramps 
  • Constipation
  • Acid Reflux 
  • Difficulty in concentration 

 

Neurobiology of Binge Eating: Binge eating has been classified as a disorder but the neurobiology mirrors the same traits of substance abuse behaviour. Delicious foods and fluids provide the same reinforcement effects to the natural reward pathways in your brain as addictive substances like drugs. 

 

Consequences: 

 

The prominent health risks associated with Binge Eating Disorder are clinical obesity, weight stigma and weight cycling. Yo-yo dieting is common among those with BED. Not all people who are clinically obese have BED, but two-thirds of people with BED are clinically obese. Similarly, while most people with BED have higher-than-average weight, it can be diagnosed at any weight. 

 

More severe cases of BED lead to Bulimia Nervosa: a life-threatening eating disorder involving cycles of binge eating and behaviours like self-induced vomiting. 

 

Treatment: 

 

Studies show that psychological interventions like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Behavioural Weight Loss Therapy (BWLT) do seem effective for binge eating disorders.

 

CBT directly targets the core of binge eating since both the psychopathology of eating disorders and over-evaluation of shape and weight are cognitive in nature. A study suggests that people start with extreme and highly specific dietary rules when trying to reverse BED. However, this tends to fail and patients are further negatively affected. CBT helps in this regard.
 

Cheers and see you soon,  

 

References

  1. Binge eating disorder treatment: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Brownley KA, Berkman ND, Sedway JA, Lohr KN, Bulik CM
  2. Personality and eating behaviors: a case-control study of binge eating disorder. Davis C, Levitan RD, Carter J, Kaplan AS, Reid C, Curtis C, Patte K, Kennedy JL
  3. Brownley, Kimberly A., et al. “Binge-Eating Disorder in Adults.” Annals of Internal Medicine, vol. 165, no. 6, 2016, p. 409., doi:10.7326/m15-2455.
  4. Mathes, Wendy Foulds, et al. “The Biology of Binge Eating.” Appetite, vol. 52, no. 3, 2009, pp. 545–553., doi:10.1016/j.appet.2009.03.005.
  5. National Eating Disorders

Get the facts here and the booze elsewhere! 

A contentious topic in the nutrition industry: Alcohol. It’s an addiction, a hindrance, an inhibitor of sense and yet, it’s a pleasure, a social convention and an aggregator of sensations.
 

Did you know? When water was unsafe to consume in Europe, alcohol proved to be a better option for hydration!

 

Why do we drink? 

 

For a multitude of reasons! They’re not just excuses to get sloshed, people. We’re talking about actual scientific facts here. 

 

Let’s get serious.

 

The primary factor that causes humans to consume alcohol is dopamine. When you drink alcohol, it increases the flow of dopamine, which in turn stimulates the pleasure and reward center of the brain. The direct correlation of drink = reward is as simple as it gets. 

 

Did you know? Young adults who love sugar have a predisposition towards alcohol, and are more prone to getting addicted to it.

 

Other factors that incentivise us to drink alcohol include: 

  • appealing taste 
  • stress relief
  • loosens inhibitions  
  • social courtesy
  • assists sleep

 

How does drinking affect us? 

 

Although we humans consume for recreation, alcohol is a toxic substance that can cause a lot of damage to our bodily functions. The toxic-flusher of our bodies – the liver is the organ that is particularly sensitive to alcohol intake.

 

Fatty liver is a common occurrence in those who drink more than 15ml of alcohol per day. While this doesn’t show symptoms and is reversible, binge drinking and excessive alcohol consumption leads to inflamed liver, or worse, cirrhosis.   

 

Physiologically, when we drink we lose control of our inhibitions. Yes, this makes socialising easier but it also increases and encourages risk-taking behaviour. 

 

The World Health Organization estimated that over 3 million people die every year due to alcohol consumption. This constitutes 5% of all deaths!

 

When does drinking become an addiction? 

The simple drink = reward correlation we spoke of earlier? Both a blessing and a bane, an excessive increase in dopamine levels is an addictive factor. Further, alcohol acts on the prefrontal cortex which reduces our inhibitory control and amps up our risk-taking behaviour. These coupled with pre-existing addiction tendencies, lifestyle, environment and company all play a role in creating an alcohol addiction. 

 

We’ve covered the why, the how, and the when. It’s now time for the what.

 

What can you drink? 

 

Leaving aside the physiological and psychological effects of alcohol we’ve outlined above, there’s sure to be times when you do indulge in a sip (or glass) (or bottle) of alcohol. Here’s what you can do to minimise the impact. 

 

Lay. Off. The. Cocktails. 

 

Cocktails, margaritas, fancy shots – therein lies the path of sugaryness. It’s ideal if you stick to hard liquor and a mixer (water, soda or ice). Do make sure to curtail the number of drinks and keep hydrated throughout. 

 

So that’s the high and low of it all. We are not in the business of morals, ethics or sanctity. You’ve read the science, now it’s time for you to make the choices that work for your lifestyle! 

 

Cheers and see you soon,  

 

References

  1. https://www.wdl.org/en/item/3956/
  2. Kampov-Polevoy, Alexey, et al. “Sweet-Liking Is Associated with Transformation of Heavy Drinking into Alcohol-Related Problems in Young Adults with High Novelty Seeking.” Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, vol. 38, no. 7, 2014, pp. 2119–2126., doi:10.1111/acer.12458.
  3. Crabb, David W. “Pathogenesis of Alcoholic Liver Disease. Newer Mechanisms of Injury.” The Keio Journal of Medicine, vol. 48, no. 4, 1999, pp. 184–188., doi:10.2302/kjm.48.184.
  4. Bergheim, Ina, et al. “Treatment of Alcoholic Liver Disease.” Digestive Diseases, vol. 23, no. 3-4, 2005, pp. 275–284., doi:10.1159/000090175.

Sleep is for the weak? No, sleep is for the species! 

 

“If sleep does not serve an absolutely vital function, then it is the biggest mistake the evolutionary process has ever made” – Dr Allan Rechtschaffen

 

Have you ever thought about why we need to sleep? Guess what…

 

Nobody knows!

 

From an evolutionary standpoint, sleep is rather confusing. When the body is at rest, it forsakes all the aspects that constitute humanity. One can’t gather sustenance, socialise, mate, protect offspring and worst of all, sleep leaves you vulnerable to predation. And yet, lack of sleep causes serious physiological and psychological damage to our bodies. Let’s take a gander into the world of zzzs…

 

Types of Sleep 

 

The recommended daily amount of sleep is 7 – 8 hours for adults. However, this comes with a disclaimer. The sleep referred to here includes total sleep and type of sleep, both are required for optimal body functioning. Over and above this, it’s ideal if one sleeps at the time when the body is ready to sleep and not otherwise. 

 

If you were a biology student, I’m sure you’ll remember hearing about REM sleep in school. REM or Random Eye Movement sleep is usually when you get dreams and/or nightmares. Non-REM sleep is commonly known as deep or slow wave sleep. 

 

Circadian Rhythms: We all have an internal body clock which controls when we wake and sleep, which usually follows a 24-hour repetitive pattern. This circadian rhythm affects the working of every single cell, tissue and organ of our bodies! 

 

Off the rhythm 

 

It’s not just dancers that need to maintain a rhythm, our body mechanisms need to as well! When there is an alteration in your circadian rhythm, everything feels ‘off’. Consecutive shifts from our rhythms, whether due to poor or disturbed sleep or lack of sleep entirely, leads to sleep deficiency and ultimately, sleep deprivation. 

 

I’m so sleepy…

 

An oft-spoken phrase, isn’t it? Sleep deficiency has become the new norm, in fact, it’s begotten the term ‘sleep epidemic’. An occasional night awake is expected, but several nights up late binge-watching shows, staring at the ceiling or simply being unable to sleep? It’s not optimal in the slightest. 

 

Microsleeping: Those brief moments of sleep that happen while you’re still awake? If you’ve experienced this, you’ve been microsleeping. A symptom of sleep deficiency, microsleep can’t be controlled and often happens without your awareness.

 

Insufficient sleep on a regular basis interferes with every aspect of our lives: work, school, driving and even social situations. Retention and reaction capabilities are hindered. Gauging  other’s emotions is tough when you haven’t slept enough, and you will find yourself frustrated and anxious when socialising. 

 

All this and more is why we should prioritize sufficient and appropriate sleep. 

 

But, how?

 

Creating a sleep routine is a requisite for sustainable balance in life. Start small. And no, we’re not recommending you count 100 sheep a night, then 200, and so forth. Find a rhythm that works for you! Whether it’s keeping a sleep diary, setting reminders to get ready for bed, or even asking your significant other to wake you up (a parent would be more reliable), make sure you maintain that routine.  

 

The more consistent you are with your routine, the sooner you’ll see results in your day-to-day life. You’ll notice you’re more refreshed in the mornings (no more cranky monday blues), improved concentration at school and work, and a drastic reduction in your midday naps! Do comment below on what helps you sleep, we’d love to hear from you. 

 

See you on the flip side,

Eating this causes weight gain.
Eating this increases cravings.
Eating this gets you addicted to it.
Meet the new villain in the health and fitness industry, sugar.
 

 
White sugar has got a bad reputation in the health industry for a while, since we moved away from fat. Leaving aside weight gain, white sugar or sucrose has been said to be ‘addictive’.
Addiction is defined as “the fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance or activity.” It indicates psychological dependence. Addiction is commonly used in the context of drugs or alcohol and has now been extended to sugar. If sugar alone was really that addictive, we would be eating sugar straight out of the bag right? Do we really see people carrying bags of white sugar and secretly eating them when no one is watching?
 
But sugar is more addictive than cocaine!
 
This statement is used over and over again, but it shows how a research paper can be entirely misinterpreted. The study measured dopamine response to food and drugs in rats (1). They found that dopamine levels increased when the rats received food as a reward and also when cocaine was injected in them. This only shows that cocaine can increase dopamine levels similar to food reward. It does not imply that sugar is more addictive than cocaine.
 
What does the research actually say?
 
Animal studies addressing sugar addiction employ a method of depriving the rodents of sugar for a certain period and then allow free access to food (2). This is usually 12-16 hours of deprivation followed by 12 hours of access to food. Hence this addiction like behaviour is usually observed in rats that have intermittent access to sugar (2). This restriction is what possibly increases the reward value of sugar. This behaviour is very similar to when we restrict ourselves from certain food groups don’t you think? More importantly, in these studies, rats were given liquid glucose, sucrose or saccharin. Humans don’t consume in isolation, but rather in combination with fat and several other ingredients which results in a highly palatable food.
 
Maybe it’s about the palatability?
 
Evidence from animal models suggests that hyperpalatable and highly processed foods could potentially be addictive (3). Foods like pastries, cakes, doughnuts and the likes are a mixture of carbohydrates, fat, sugar and flavouring that makes it very energy dense and palatable. It is not made of just sugar. Rather, sugar is one of the ingredients. Moreover, most evidence stems from studies done in animals with limited trials in humans.
 
More recently,
 
A study in 2017 (4) examined whether sugar containing foods could bring about possible ‘addictive like’ behaviors based on clinical criteria for substance dependance. This cross sectional study studied 1495 participants for signs of food addiction for particular food categories in accordance with accepted clinical criteria (DSM-IV).  They found that most of these ‘addiction like’ problems were towards high fat savoury and high fat sweet foods and NOT foods containing mostly sugar or low fat savoury foods.
 
This is what research has to say. The vast majority of the community has misinterpreted these research studies. These are done primarily in rodents who were restricted from sugar for a stipulated time period. It suggests that foods that are hyper palatable (ie; taste good) have greater reward value. These are also energy dense in nature. Sugar addiction as a stand alone has very limited and weak evidence. It is imperative to understand this as demonising sugar is a reductionist approach. Next time someone says sugar addiction is real, you know exactly what blog post to show them!

REFERENCES:

1. Hernandez L, Hoebel B. Food reward and cocaine increase extracellular dopamine in the nucleus accumbens as measured by microdialysis. Life Sciences. 1988;42(18):1705-1712.
2. Westwater M, Fletcher P, Ziauddeen H. Sugar addiction: the state of the science. European Journal of Nutrition. 2016;55(S2):55-69.
3. N. Gearhardt A, Davis C, Kuschner R, D. Brownell K. The Addiction Potential of Hyperpalatable Foods. Current Drug Abuse Reviews. 2011;4(3):140-145.
4. Krieger J. No, you’re not addicted to sugar [Internet]. Weightology. 2017.

You’re eating a banana while working. You suddenly notice an email from your boss that you haven’t replied to. You shove the banana down your throat and your fingers swiftly start typing a reply, while you struggle to chew the banana. You are done typing a few seconds later, but notice that your banana is gone! You check under your desk, maybe you’ve dropped it? Then it hits you. You’ve eaten it, but it doesn’t feel like it at all!

Could you relate to the above?

When was the last time you really had a look at what was on your plate and enjoyed a meal? With technology entering every aspect of our lives in addition to ‘hustling’ (read: being busy) 24 x 7, we seldom pay attention to the food we eat. We mindlessly eat what is within our reach, not realising the consequences. We wolf down our food without chewing, phone in hand and rush to our laptops to send out emails. What can be a good 10-15 minutes spent on just eating is now a 5 minute hastily done job!

Mindfulness is defined as being aware or conscious of something.  Mindful eating involves being aware of the food you eat and getting rid of distractions that might interfere with your eating experience. It also involves noticing the texture, the colour and flavor of the food. Mindful eating primarily relies on hunger and satiety cues, to initiate eating. Further, it incorporates the practice of not being critical or judgemental of the food you are eating . For example, if you really want a doughnut, by all means eat it. Do not label it as a ‘bad’ food. By looking at the first few principles, it is clear that we do not adhere to it,considering our busy lives.

But how do we incorporate mindful eating on a daily basis? This is very simple:

  • Eat when you are hungry
  • Differentiate between actual hunger, boredom, stress and other emotions
  • Ensure that when you eat a meal, you do not have any distractions. This means, no screens
  • Try and eat in silence
  • Chew your food thoroughly
  • Notice the texture, flavour and smell of what is in front of you
  • Eat until you are nearly full

These can be used as starting points to slowly adopt mindful eating as a habit. Start by applying these principles to one meal a day, and then gradually increasing the frequency. Mindless eating habits often takes a toll on our health. Being aware of what we eat and how we eat also matters.

REFERENCES:

  1. Nelson J. Mindful Eating: The Art of Presence While You Eat. Diabetes Spectrum. 2017;30(3):171-174.
  2. Harvard Health Publishing. 8 steps to mindful eating – Harvard Health [Internet]. Harvard Health. 2019. 

Our society has solely been focussing on ‘weight loss’ for a long time now. With the increasing number of individuals buying into the trend of fad diets, it is alarming to see the lengths to which people are willing to go, in order to lose weight. Avoiding carbohydrates, following extremely restrictive diets just before a special occasion, fasting for days together… The list is endless! All this makes me question What is our relationship with food like? Do we look at it as something to nourish us or something that we fear?
This article aims to throw light on our relationship with food. Beyond diets and weight loss, there are several factors that need to be looked at. Scaremongering is very common in the fitness industry and has lead to many of us having a skewed relationship with food.
For instance, When someone is on a ‘diet’ or is looking to change their habits for the better, they automatically assume that the only approach to do so is to be restrictive. This leads to an extremely rigid mentality, which we call ‘dichotomous thinking’. Dichotomous thinking is defined as thinking in terms of binary oppositions such as “good or bad”, “black or white”, or “all or nothing” (1). How does this apply to nutrition? A classic example of this would be ‘clean eating’. ‘Clean eating’ is a trend that has been growing rampantly and involves consumption of whole foods with no inclusion of processed foods. Now, this may look harmless, but invariably this trend has assigned moral values to food. Whole foods are ‘good’ and processed food is ‘bad’. With scant disregard to energy balance, we have assumed that eating ‘clean food’ has the ability to elicit weight loss and has a higher moral value. In contrast, ‘junk food’ is looked upon as inherently ‘bad’ and ‘unclean’. This tends to create fear or anxiety around ‘bad’ foods in the long run. Dichotomous thinking is not only restricted to food, but also weight (acceptable vs unacceptable) and diets (on a diet vs off a diet) (2).
To start with, I’m going to clear one myth that never seems to die in this field. No single food can cause weight loss or weight gain. No single food is inherently ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Assigning moral values to food and weight is problematic. In fact, rigid dietary control is often characterized by dichotomous thinking. Further, those engaging in rigid dietary methods are more likely to report symptoms of eating disorders, mood disturbances, higher anxiety and excessive concern with body size/shape compared to those with flexible dietary strategies (3). This is definitely a cause for concern. In contrast to rigid and restrictive eating patterns, a more flexible approach seems to have a positive effect on behaviours (4).
So how do you change your mindset? While this takes time, if you do have anxiety issues around certain food, the first step would be to stop ‘dieting’. Approach a professional specialising in eating disorders/disordered eating. Your relationship with food is a lot more important than you think. Restrictive eating and dieting only does more damage than good in the long run. Understand that any food in isolation is neither harmful nor beneficial. Some foods happen to be more nutrient dense than their counterparts. This article does not mean to imply that you now have a freeway to load up on cakes and pastries, nor does it say you need to only eat salads. The purpose of this article is to make you aware that extreme restriction is problematic. Learning a more flexible approach, instead of assigning labels to food improves your relationship with food and leads to a healthier lifestyle, both mentally and physically.

References:

(1) Oshio, A. Development and validation of the Dichotomous Thinking Inventory. Social Behaviour and Personality. 2009; 37(6):729-741.
(2) Dove, ER, Byrne, SM, Bruce, NW. Effect of dichotomous thinking on the association of depression with BMI and weight change among obese females. Behaviour and Research Therapy.2009;47(6):529-534.
(3) Stewart, TM, Willaimson, DA, White, MA. Rigid vs. flexible dieting: association with eating disorder symptoms in nonobese women. Appetite. 2002;38(1):39-44.
(4) Smith, CF, Williamson, DA, Bray, GA, Ryan, DH.Flexible vs. Rigid Dieting Strategies: Relationship with Adverse Behavioral Outcomes. Appetite.1999;32(3):295-305.
(5) Palascha A, van Kleef,E, van Trijp, HC. How does thinking in Black and White terms relate to eating behavior and weight regain?Journal of Health Psychology. 2015;20:638-648.

“Sorry, I can’t eat cake I’m on a diet”
By definition, a “diet” is the sum of energy and nutrients obtained from foods and beverages consumed regularly by individuals. To put it in simple terms, it is what you eat and drink on a day to day basis. Somewhere along the way, the meaning shifted to something more specific. Something that people dread. You guessed it right – Weight loss.
As a generation, we are used to quick results. Everything from groceries to electronics can be bought with a click. Unintentionally (or not) we have begun to channel that into how our bodies respond to an external stimulus, such as food and exercise. We expect results within a short span of time and will go to great lengths to ensure that it happens! Ever completely cut off a food group or had just juices for a week to shed some weight? That is exactly what I’m talking about.
This is what we call a ‘fad diet’. It’s nothing but a trend that claims to guarantee rapid weight loss and have an upper hand over our perfectly normal balanced diet. Most of the claims around fad diets might seem appealing.
“Guaranteed weight loss in a week!”
“Helps in removing harmful toxins from your body”
“Carbohydrates are stored as fat. Switch to fat as your primary source of energy.”
Sounds familiar? Although these claims might seem appealing, the diet by itself is extremely restrictive. Every single nutrient has a role to play in our body and nothing in isolation is inherently bad. Any ‘diet’ that you choose to follow is completely based on individual preference. But, is it sustainable? Is it personalised to help achieve your goals? It is imperative that everyone is informed of the pros and cons of these diets and make an informed choice. For that reason, here is a compilation of the most popular diets:
(1) Ketogenic diet: Both carbohydrates and fat can be used as a source of energy by the body. The body relies on glucose (broken down from carbohydrates) when one consumes their normal diet (1). In the complete absence or reduced amount (<20g) of carbohydrates in the body, the body enters a state of ketosis, wherein it relies entirely on stored fat for energy. Signs of ketosis can be identified by increased ketone bodies in the blood, headaches and fatigue due to extremely low carbohydrate intake and bad breath. Breakdown of fat results in the rise of ketone bodies in the blood, which are used as an alternate source of fuel. The ketogenic diet involves consuming minimal to no carbohydrates (~5% from diet) and using fat (~75% from diet) as a source of energy. It encourages consumption of copious amounts of fat from sources like bacon, ghee,butter,nuts,cheese etc. Starch, grains, beans and legumes, fruit and starchy vegetables are avoided. The sources of fat usually consumed in a keto diet are low chain triglycerides (LCT’s). Off late, consumption of fat sources that contain Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT’s) like coconut oil are observed. Although they do not contain concentrated amounts of MCT’s, it is suggested that MCT’s generate more ketone bodies and may be more beneficial to incorporate in a keto diet (1).
Pros: A ketogenic diet was developed for children diagnosed with epilepsy. It was said to be therapeutic as fats do not spike insulin. It works by stabilising various mechanisms related to synaptic functions and thus has an anti-seizure effect. So you know who it actually benefits (2). Although, consumption of high amounts of fats can induce better satiety (3), thus reducing food consumption in subsequent meals. This can potentially help in losing weight. In order to adapt a ketogenic diet to the current lifestyles and improve adherence, a cyclical keto diet came into the picture. This involves following a keto diet for 4-5 days and increase carb intake for 1-3 days. There is currently no evidence to support the validity of a cyclical ketogenic diet.
Cons: A ketogenic diet can be extremely restrictive. Cutting all sources of carbohydrates can lead to irritability, ‘brain fog’, mood swings, headache and even constipation, due to lack of fibre in the diet. Although it might result in weight loss (provided you’re in a caloric deficit), it may not be sustainable in the long run. I mean, how long are you going to stay away from a good slice of pizza? On a more serious note, the exclusion of whole grains, fruits and vegetables could lead to deficiencies of B vitamins, iron, zinc etc. Further, the long term effects of such a high fat diet haven’t been studied.

(2) Paleo Diet: The Paleolithic diet or paleo diet resembles what hunters or cavemen ate several years ago. This diet primarily revolves around what our ancestors had access to – Whole foods. And by that, I literally mean, whole foods only. Sounds easy? Not really. You see, cavemen didn’t cultivate their food. So what they ate was what they could find. So on this diet, the idea is to avoid anything that could be made in a factory. What this diet would comprise of would be meat, free range eggs, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. In order to adapt it to the current scenario, consuming spices/condiments and olive/coconut oil are acceptable. It has been speculated that they did have access to grains. However, evidence for a paleo diet to be superior than a balanced diet is still in question (4).
Pros: Any food that is ‘processed’ such as aerated beverages, most dairy products, legumes/beans, vegetable oils and even grains are not to be consumed on this diet. Since you will be consuming an abundance of fruits and vegetables, there lies an advantage. The focus on whole foods does steer us away from a conventional diet primarily filled with calorie dense foods of low nutrient content. In fact, studies have shown that a paleo diet improves insulin sensitivity, blood pressure and cholesterol (5).
Cons: To start with, the diet is pretty restrictive. More than it, it also creates a list of ‘good food’ and ‘bad food’. That by itself creates a sense of fear of food and is problematic. Further, we can follow a perfectly wise diet even with the inclusion of dairy, starch and legumes. The exclusion of dairy might lead to a deficiency in calcium(4).
(3) Detox diet: A detox diet is used to eliminate toxins from the body and assist with weight loss. These are also commonly known as juice cleanses. However, it can also involve consuming vitamins, minerals, laxatives and other ‘cleansing foods’ (6). While most commercial detox diets do not specify the ‘toxins’ they claim to remove, it should be noted here that the dose of the said toxin determines its harmfulness (7). For example, even an essential mineral like Iodine when present in excess can lead to thyroid disorder. Does that mean iodine in isolation is a toxin?
Various organs in our body, and in specific the liver are involved in eliminating potential toxins from the body. Commercial detox diets lure the masses promising rapid weight loss, but there is no scientific evidence to support this claim.
Pros: Well. This is a tough one. In a recent review on detox diets (7), it was highlighted that some plant based foods like coriander, citric acid (found in citrus fruits) and malic acid (found in grapes) can help in removing toxic metals from the body. However, most of these studies were performed on animals and can’t be generalised to the human population. While these detox diets may be successful in inducing weight loss in the short term, they may not be sustainable in the long run.
Cons: Detox diets involve severe energy restriction and might lead to nutrient deficiencies. For example, by just drinking juices for a week, one may not meet their recommended protein intake! Further, detox dieters could potentially be over consuming supplements/laxatives (7). A variety of nutrients need to be consumed on a daily basis, which a detox diet may not be able to provide.
(4) GM diet: A diet that was initially created for the employee of General Motors (GM), the GM diet allows you to eat a certain combination of foods each day. For example, on day one you eat only fruit (except bananas). On day two, only vegetables. This pattern of consuming specific foods continues for a period of 7 days. Since fruits, vegetables and other items allowed in the diet are low calorie, it has been shown to induce weight loss. However, as much as it is popular, there isn’t any research to support the claims of this diet.
Pros: Although a GM diet does include some whole foods, it follows a restrictive and specific pattern.
Cons: We need a variety of nutrients on a daily basis. By consuming just fruits throughout the day, other nutrients such as protein, fat and several other micronutrients available in whole grains, fruits and vegetables are neglected. Moreover, tendency to feel hungry might be prevalent. The weight lost on a GM diet may be temporary. Since it isn’t something you can follow lifelong (fight me!), there lies a possibility of regaining the weight lost.
Do you sense a pattern with all these diets? All of these diets involve restricting either all your food or a specific food/food group. Do you think that’s sustainable and that you can follow it life long? Not really right? In an ideal scenario, for a diet to be sustainable, it needs to be personalised to suit you and your goals. There isn’t one specific diet that is applicable to everyone. As mentioned before, all nutrients play a specific role in your body. Completely cutting yourself off from one for the sake of losing weight does more harm than good. Always make an informed decision when it comes to your fitness goals. The shortcuts might seem tempting, but remember health is wealth.

References:

1) Walcyzk, T, Wick, JY. The ketogenic diet: making a comeback. The Consultant Pharmacist. 2017; 32(7), 388-396.
2) Rho, JM. How does the ketogenic diet induce anti-seizure effects? Neuroscience Letters. 2017; 637, 4-10
3) Paoli, A. Ketogenic diet for obesity: Friend or foe?. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2014; 11(2),2092-1207.
4) Pitt, CE. Cutting through the Paleo hype: The evidence for the Paleolithic diet. Australian Family Physician. 2016; 45(1): 35-38.
5) Tarantino, G, Citro, V and Finelli, C. Hype or Reality: Should Patients with Metabolic Syndrome-related NAFLD be on the Hunter-Gatherer (Paleo) Diet to Decrease Morbidity?.Journal of Gastrointestinal and Liver disease. 2015; 24(3): 359-368.
6) Allen, J, Montalto, M, Lovejoy, J, Weber, W. Detoxification in naturopathic medicine: a survey. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2011;17(12):1175-1180.
7) Klein, AV, Hiat, H. Detox diets for toxin elimination and weight management: a critical review of the evidence. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics. 2014; 28(6): 675-686.
8) Healthline. What is the Cyclical Ketogenic Diet? Everything you need to know.
9) Medical News Today. What are the signs of ketosis?
10) Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Diet Review: Ketogenic Diet for weight loss.
11) Masharani, U, Sherchan, P, Schloetter, M, Stratford, S, Xiao, A, Sebastian, A, Nolte Kennedy, M and Frassetto, L. Metabolic and physiologic effects from consuming a hunter-gatherer (Paleolithic)-type diet in type 2 diabetes. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.2015; 69(8), 944-948.
12) Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Diet Review: Paleo diet for weight loss.
13) Precision Nutrition. The Paleo problem.

If you meet a nutritionist/dietitian and they hand you a pre-made meal template without understanding your lifestyle, you need to do just one thing.

RUN.

It is not an unfamiliar practice for ‘nutrition coaches’ and for that matter even qualified nutritionists to hand out premade diet plans to any client that walks in. With the market flooded with ‘detox plans’ and ‘diet plans that require no exercise’, we are made to believe that there is one superior ‘diet’ that can help us achieve our fitness goals. Marketing does play a role, but it also reflects how gullible enough we are to actually be the target audience. It is imperative to understand that each of us are extremely different from one another. Everything from eating habits and food preferences to sleep schedules differ greatly from person to person. So how do we expect one universal ‘diet plan’ to work? You might agree to bite your teeth and eat what that template tells you to. But for how long? Is it teaching you how to build sustainable eating habits or is it just temporary? Are you looking at long term health or short term aesthetic outcomes?

With this in mind, several nutritionists and dietitians are now offering tailor made plans suited to each individual. These ‘personalised nutrition’ plans are slowly gaining momentum. Like the name suggests, these are interventions or advice that are developed from individual characteristics (1). Interventions like these may help in bringing out more effective behavioural changes (2). Personalised nutrition can be applied to individuals with specific conditions such as pregnancy or old age (1). The goal of such interventions are primarily to benefit health, but could also be applicable to meet specific goals such as performance in sport (3).

Here is an excerpt from nutritionist Varsha.

“I once had a client who consulted with a nutritionist before meeting me, this nutritionist did not take the said client’s lifestyle into account, did not interact much and asked her if she wanted to lose X number of kilos in Y number of months. She then based her charges on the number of kilos to be dropped. This has become a common practice. In addition, any information with respect to nutrition, is easily accessible on the internet. People need to know that these claims need to be backed by a body of research. For this reason, it’s always important to get guidance from a professional who is well qualified and up to date with current research.”

In 2016, a large study was conducted by Celis-Morales et al. (4) over 6 months, recruiting participants from seven European countries. They were either given conventional dietary advice or personalised advice based on the individual’s diet and phenotype and/or genotype. It was observed that a personalised diet was more effective in creating sustainable habits. Nevertheless, there are always two sides to a coin. While the theoretical evidence for personalised nutrition is still not clear, marketing can lure consumers into taking unreliable tests that have limited evidence.

In conclusion, it is imperative for you as consumers, to be aware of the various evidence based trust worthy nutritionists who care about your goals and more importantly, your health. While the evidence for personalised nutrition seems promising, it is also crucial for you, to be aware of unregulated tests in the market. Further, it is clear that there is no ‘one size fits all approach’, when it comes to nutrition. A diet and exercise plan suited to YOUR lifestyle, accounting for YOUR food preferences, goals and/or clinical condition(s) is what works always.

References:

1) Ordovas, JM, Ferguson, LR, Tai, ES, Mathers, JC. Personalised Nutrition and health. The British Medical Journal. 2018; 361:bmj.k2173

2) Woolf, SH,Purnell, JQ. The good life: working together to promote opportunity and improve population health and well-being. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2016;315(16): 1706-1708.

3) Jeukendrup, A. A Step Towards Personalized Sports Nutrition: Carbohydrate Intake During Exercise. Sports Medicine.2014; 44(Suppl 1): 25-33.

4) Celis-Morales C, Livingstone K, Marsaux C, Macready A, Fallaize R, O’Donovan C et al. Effect of personalized nutrition on health-related behaviour change: evidence from the Food4me European randomized controlled trial. International Journal of Epidemiology. 2016;46(2):578-588.