A rant on diets

This is a version of something I wrote to a group of very dear friends on the subject of diets and dieting – although I'm far from being the best person to write on that, do as I say, not as I do. šŸ˜‰

I don't know why I insist on repeating this, but I'll give it another try: there is no evidence that a diet that completely removes <insert your favorite target here> from one's intake offers any long term health advantage.

A balanced diet is important. We, as a species, evolved as omnivores, and in adequate quantities there is very little we can't handle. But our bodies are geared toward storing energy and our lives changed a lot since our first H. sapiens arose on Earth, so it is quite easy (if you do not live in a place plagued by famine) to get overweight, although in all certainty there are genetic factors involved. There is no magic. If you tip the energetic balance in one direction, you'll gain weight, the other way round, you'll lose it.

The problem with those diets du jour is that it may be hard to keep them in the long run if they are too restrictive. There are other problems as well. If you remove all carbohydrates from your diet it means that you are extracting calories from either fat (which is not good for you cholesterol levels) or protein (which can be hazardous on one's kidneys in the long run – and this is something that people with diabetes should keep an eye on). Our brains only run on glucose, and we'll generate it from almost anything else, but the metabolic pathways to generate glucose from anything other than complex sugars (like starch) have by-products that, in excess, can be hazardous to the organism. Please take a look at this little article: Metabolic Effects of High-Protein, Low-Carbohydrate Diets.

In summary, if you want to diet, consult a dietitian – not an MD. We can at most determine that you need to cut this or that from your meals, but only a proper dietitian will be able to work out a decent feeding plan that will minimize the adverse effects of restricting food intake while keeping a healthy balanced diet.

Nutrition is a science, there is a lot of dedicated people that have been working their asses off for years in randomized trials to assess what works or not and how, please apply the same skeptical standards to whatever nutjob claims you see, especially those in journals like the Daily Mail, which, according to Ben Goldacre, is dedicated to a project to catalog every stuff there is as either causing or preventing cancer.

Please read that e-book on how to evaluate treatments and try to consult relevant literature before mortgaging your health to the latest weight losing fad that came from Hollywood.


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