Home Gut Diet The End of the Dark Ages for Metabolic Health

The End of the Dark Ages for Metabolic Health

by previlli

Thinking about dieting?

You’re not alone. Almost half of American adults try to lose weight every year, according to a government report.(1)
From keto, paleo and gluten-free, to fasting, Whole 30 and Atkins, dieters are opting in to a specific plan now more than ever before.
(2)

“Calories in versus calories out” used to be the expert prescription for weight loss. 
 
For decades, weight loss seekers faced this equation and the confounding reality that they just glance at a donut and gain 5 pounds while their friend, sister or colleague appears to eat anything they want with little or no consequences.
Emerging research finally explains how macro nutrient processing and energy extraction varies widely by individual. This research is creating new theories about how two people can eat the same diet with different metabolic outcomes. 

A landmark study, looking at blood glucose response in 800 subjects over more than 45,000 meals, showed significant variance even when subjects ate identical meals. 
The authors concluded “that universal dietary recommendations may have limited utility,”(3) a conclusion that flies in the face of everything we’ve learned about nutrition. “Universal dietary recommendations” has guided public policy for the last 60 years. 
 
It means that not only could the equation calories in and calories out be flawed, but the answer to the battle over low fat versus low carb, high fat, or high protein could be different for each of us. There may not be a universal recommendation that works for everyone, after all.  
 
Researchers now describe gut health and the microbiome as the “missing X factor” that has kept science, billions of dollars, and decades of research from developing lasting and meaningful solutions to the obesity epidemic.

It seems like every year a new diet plan emerges on the market. How do you know which is right for you?

Each diet affects the health of the gastrointestinal tract and the microbiome differently. Before starting a new diet, there are many things to consider, including the impact on the structure and function of the gut. A whole host of dietary and lifestyle factors can influence critical structural elements of the gut and the composition of the microbiota. Diet, medication, disease, and stress can change the gut barrier, microvilli, enzyme release, gut pH, and short chain fatty acid (SCFA) production. Typical American diets — high in fat and sugar, low in fiber — are proven to reduce the production of SCFAs. These diets tip the microbiota metabolism to produce less favorable metabolites, increase fat storage, and expand the growth of bacteria associated with chronic inflammation and obese body types.(13) 
No matter which diet you choose, you can minimize the negative impact on gut health.  
 

Four simple things everyone should try:

• Have a total calorie goal

Studies show that people who record their daily food intake are more likely to lose weight. Even if your special diet plan doesn’t require you to count calories, keeping your diet from digressing into a calorie free-for-all will help you reach your short-term goals and keep the weight off in the long term.

• Give up refined carbohydrates

Almost every diet recommends giving up refined carbs, a.k.a. junk food: deep fried snacks, white grains, baked goods, and processed foods. Indulge in these treats only on special occasions. Meta-analysis shows carbohydrate intake most strongly associated with obesity even when controlling for changes in caloric intake and physical activity.(4)

• Eat a wide range of vegetables and fruits

Get 7 servings a day of vegetables and up to 3 servings per day of fruit.

• Eat in a window

Start by committing to not eating after dinner. Your gut needs a break from food and so do you. Your body wasn’t made to have your digestive system running for 18 or more hours per day. If you don’t have medical problems or medications that require you to eat more frequently, then try to get your eating window to under 12 hours per day.  This gentle form of intermittent fasting delivers big benefits.

• Don’t give up! Most people who’ve lost weight and kept it off tried multiple times before finally finding success. 


• The diet most likely to work for you is the one that you can stay on and makes you feel good. Diets based on deprivation, suffering, constant willpower, and no allowance for an occasional treat are almost impossible to implement as a long-term lifestyle. Try to avoid diets that are too extreme. Consult your physician before beginning any exercise or diet program and get in touch with them if symptoms of GI upset or fatigue last more than 7 days after starting a significant dietary change.


• No matter what diet you’re on, you’re more likely to reach your goal if you reduce your caloric intake. Of course, one of the biggest perks of many of the new diet plans is that they don’t require you to count calories. But whether low fat, high fat, or low carb, studies show you’re more likely to both lose weight and enjoy better health overall if you lower your caloric intake.(5)  In addition to improving your chances of success, studies show other health benefits of lower calorie diets, including improved microbiome diversity, better cardiovascular health, and increased longevity.(6, 10)


• Fiber and other prebiotics are important for maintaining good gut health and rich microbiome diversity that create the right environment for optimal short chain fatty acid production, optimal satiety hormone messaging, and efficient toxin removal.  If you are on a low carb diet, one of the first things you should add back into your diet are low glycemic prebiotic fibers or polyphenol-rich foods.  


• Eating high fat, high sugar and FODMAP diets reduce the diversity of the gut microbiome, which can have long-term negative effects. Many physicians say these are short-term options that should eventually evolve to more moderate lifestyles unless you have a chronic health problem where these diets are recommended long term.(7, 8, 9)


• Ketogenic diets, caloric restriction, and intermittent fasting are more than just fads. Expect them to be around for many years, and count on increased research.(8, 9)

The “one size fits all” approach to weight management is on its way out.

Thanks to new science on the microbiome, metabiome and epigenetics, we may finally possess the keys to crack the code for optimal metabolic health.  

For decades, most health policy was based on standardized advice.

We’ve spent billions of dollars on drug discoveries based upon these theories with limited success. Meanwhile, obesity rates have more than tripled and consumer frustration has reached an all-time high. 

A revealing study published in the Journal of Obesity measured this frustration level by determining the value individuals placed upon their weight-loss goal. 

The results were shocking:

People struggling with their weight said they would give up retirement with full pay (88%), the house of their dreams (88%), and even winning a million dollars (44%) if they could reach and maintain their goal weight.(12) It’s proof that good health is literally priceless.  

New science may finally help researchers and individuals accept that no single answer for weight management will work for everyone. The increase in obesity and metabolic-related diseases is one of the most devastating and persistent trends in human health. We’re just now developing tools with the potential to halt and even reverse this trend. The gut is the gateway to finding a personalized path to weight loss success.
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