It has never been so difficult to follow a sensible diet.
A civil war is raging in the world of nutrition, with fat advocates thrown into fierce academic conflicts with those who prefer carbohydrates as the way to good health.
An opening shot (although he did not know it at the time) was fired in 2014 when a Merseyside GP put 19 overweight or type 2 diabetes patients on a diet that, in the face of conventional advice, turned to low-fat, high-carbohydrates.
That was Dr. David Unwin, who appeared in the recent series of the Mail on type 2 diabetes. He advised his patients to reduce the amount of starchy carbohydrates they ate, including bread, pasta, rice and tubers, but also contains some high-fat foods such as olive oil and butter.
Instead of an average of 300 grams of carbohydrates per day, their intake dropped to between 20g and 50g (one croissant has around 25g).
What would you do? Growing evidence supports the idea of switching between a keto, low-carbohydrate diet
But it was crucial that they didn't have to cut calories. The lost carbohydrates were replaced by foods that were high in fat and that reduced hunger. After eight months, the patients' blood sugar levels came down and lost an average of 9 pounds.
Follow-up studies showed that 40 percent had reversed their type 2 diabetes and that their levels of unhealthy blood fats (eg LDL cholesterol) had fallen. And their energy levels improved.
This low-carbohydrate diet is comparable to the increasingly popular ketogenic diet; keto recipe books are now bestsellers on amazon.co.uk. & # 39; Keto & # 39; means that even fewer carbohydrates are eaten, which means that you can burn fat to use fuel instead of glucose (good for weight loss) and it is also reported that you feel more energetic.
Does this mean that we all have to start the low-carb or keto diet? It is a controversial area. When it comes to keto, some experts claim that eating so few carbohydrates is harmful in the long term. Another concern is that this diet does not provide enough fiber.
Meanwhile, an American study earlier this year in The Lancet claimed that following such a diet could take four years of your life due to the increased amount of animal fats it entails.
However, Keto diet supporters also make a strong case, pointing to the repeated failure of tests on low-fat diets to show that they reduce the risk of heart disease.
Another potential benefit is the suggestion that keto may trigger the body's recovery and waste collection system, called autophagy, found in every cell.
Divided: A civil war is raging in the world of nutrition, with fat advocates thrown into fierce academic conflicts with those who prefer carbohydrates as the road to good health
Cells generate a lot of waste – dead and damaged proteins. Without regular cleaning, they gradually become less efficient.
Meanwhile, a year-long study of 349 obese diabetic patients with a low-carbohydrate diet showed that 60 percent ended with healthy blood sugar levels and lost an average of 12 percent of their body weight. So, if you are struggling to lose weight or are pre-diabetic, in which camp do you have to fight?
Well, what if you could follow a diet that had the benefits of cutting carbohydrates, but enabled you to eat some of the carbohydrate-rich foods (bread, potatoes) that these dieters often miss?
There is growing evidence to support the idea of switching between a keto, low-carbohydrate approach – eating a few grams of carbohydrates a day plus a good amount of fats – and another form of low-carbohydrate approach (without the high dose of fats). which keeps your blood sugar levels low, but gives you a much wider range of the carbohydrate foods you are looking for.
Both diets have health benefits, including weight loss and an improvement in diabetic markers, but switching between these diets can boost these results and make them more sustainable.
The idea of switching between more and less intensive dietary requirements is being investigated by Professor Valter Longo, a biologist and gerontologist at the University of California. He developed what he calls the fasting-mimic diet designed to offer the benefits of calorie restriction, including weight loss and a decrease in blood markers associated with type 2 diabetes or heart disease.
His regime, tested in the laboratory and with clinical trials, starts with a strict calorie restriction for five days, where participants limit themselves to a carbohydrate-restricted, high-fat diet of less than 1000 calories from vegan sources per day.
Both diets have benefits, including weight loss and an improvement in diabetic markers, but switching between these diets can boost these results and make them more sustainable
After five days, the participants switch back to a regular vegan diet for three weeks with more carbohydrates and less fat. They go back to the fasting-simulating diet for another five days – and the cycle continues. Professor Longo claims that an advantage, not yet fully tested, is to allow defective cells to grow again, such as those in autoimmune diseases, so that they are healthy again.
During the fasting period, these cells shrink and some die. When patients switch back, the extra food ensures that they can grow again without the autoimmune defect.
Switching between diets means not banning fat or carbohydrates – a perverse idea because our bodies have developed very advanced systems to switch between them.
& # 39; We can use fat and carbohydrates for both fuel and protein, because evolution promotes adaptability & # 39 ;, explains Richard Feinman, professor of cell biology at New York State University.
Glucose (from carbohydrates) is an important fuel for the muscles and the brain. In addition, the body is designed to switch to using body fat when glucose is scarce.
In fact, your brain can't run on the fat itself, so our bodies can convert the newly released fat into packets of energy called ketones. And the reason you don't have to do calorie restriction to lose weight from the Keto diet is that the carbohydrate deficiency makes the fat delivery automatically.
The ability to change diet is the central theme of my new book, The Hybrid Diet. Years ago I became interested in why the recommended low-fat diet could not stop the increase in obesity and diabetes.
As a medical journalist for 40 years, I came across research by the University of Oxford into the ketones produced by the low carbohydrate ketogenic diet. This knowledge forms the basis of the & # 39; hybrid diet & # 39 ;, which combines the ketogenic diet and a low carbohydrate diet, the so-called low glyaecemic load (GL), a more advanced version of low GI.
On the GL diet you can eat 150 or more grams of carbohydrates, but it still keeps blood sugar levels healthy.
This is because not all carbohydrates are made equal. Those with a low nominal GL release sugar slowly into the blood and keep it stable, so you can safely eat more.
For example, half a portion of cornflakes has a high GL rating, the same as two pastries.
Other low-GL foods include tuna and bean salad and oatcakes – they provide more carbohydrates, but do not raise blood sugar levels (which is linked to type 2 and also makes it harder to lose weight without reducing calories because the body responds consistently high sugar) by sticking to its fat storage).
Switching to the ketogenic diet means faster carbohydrate intake and significantly higher fat intake – ie meat and dairy products, with avocados, nuts, seeds, coconut and olive oil.
The release of fat from fat storage is even greater when switching to keto, because the body responds to the drastic fall in carbohydrates as it would be for a famine.
Crucial is that, in order to make ketones, carbohydrate intake must decrease considerably – less than 30 g. We differ how quickly we can make the switch to ketone production, although usually the first time will take a week or more. It will be easier.
Professor Feinmann has found that the use of the Keto diet together with the low-GL option for weight loss is useful. It is possible that the hybrid diet allows the two strains – the proponents of fat and carbohydrates – to maintain a ceasefire.
Note: Always consult your doctor before starting a new diet plan, especially if you are taking prescription medication.
The hybrid diet: your body thrives on two fuels by Patrick Holford and Jerome Burne (Piatkus, £ 16.99).
WHAT IS OBESITY? AND WHAT ARE HEALTH RISKS?
Obesity is defined as an adult with a BMI of 30 or older.
The BMI of a healthy person – calculated by dividing the weight in kg by the height in meters and the answer again by the height – is between 18.5 and 24.9.
Among children, obesity is defined as being in the 95th percentile.
Percentiles compare young people with others of the same age.
For example, if a three-month-old is in the 40th percentile for weight, it means that 40 percent of three-month-olds weigh the same or less than that baby.
About 58 percent of women and 68 percent of men in the UK are overweight or obese.
The condition costs the NHS around £ 6.1 billion, from its estimated £ 124.7 billion budget, each year.
This is due to obesity, which increases the risk of a number of life-threatening conditions.
Such conditions include type 2 diabetes, which can cause kidney disease, blindness and even limb amputations.
Research suggests that at least one in six hospital beds in the UK is taken by a diabetes patient.
Obesity also increases the risk of heart disease, killing 315,000 people every year in Britain – making it the number one cause of death.
Carrying dangerous amounts of weight is also linked to 12 different cancers.
This includes the breast, which affects one in eight women at some point in their lives.
Among children, research suggests that 70 percent of obese young people have high blood pressure or increased cholesterol, putting them at risk for heart disease.
Obese children are also considerably more likely to be obese adults.
And if children are overweight, their obesity in adults is often more severe.
No fewer than one in five children who go to school in the UK is overweight or obese and rises to one in three by the time they turn 10.
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