By Clark’s Nutrition
The search to find a “one-size-fits-all” approach to nutrition and health has led to the proliferation of diets and eating philosophies. Some diets exclude certain combined macronutrients at certain times of the day, while others originate from certain regions or exotic locales and tout themselves as nutritional panaceas. It would be impossible (and inarguably unhealthy) to try them all, which leaves us with the dieters dilemma; how to find a diet that is right for us and will not only increase our quality of life, but the quantity as well. If history is our guide, then we know the best hope for a quick fix is slow science.
To this end, researchers from Stanford University conducted the “A to Z Weight-Loss Study”, which compared diets ranging from the Atkins (A) Diet (along with the Ornish and LEARN diet), to The Zone (Z) Diet. The researchers assigned 311 nondiabetic women to one of the four diets, with weight loss at 12 months as the primary outcome. It must be noted that one caveat to all diet-related research is the issue of compliance, or lack thereof, as the number one reason why diets tend to fail over time. People resort to their old eating style and this variance, inevitably, confounds the data. However, in this study the participants adhered very well to their diets and shockingly, for some, the Atkins Diet outperformed the other three in weight loss (primary outcome) and had mildly significant advantages for lowered blood pressure and blood fats. Does this mean the Atkins Diet is the right one for everybody? Certainly not, yet the methodology used in this study does demonstrate that if weight loss, lowered blood pressure and triglycerides are the goal, this diet could serve those outcomes moderately well.
Where does that leave us in our quest for a sustainable and personalized diet? Is a convergence of agreement our best hope, coupled with ongoing modification and a judicious dose of trial-and-error? Yes, every healthy and sustainable diet (married to exercise) have these foods in common, fruits, fatty fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds with different (well-tolerated) sources of meats, eggs, and dairy added in if desired. It should be noted that dairy, animal proteins, and grains are one area where people make decisions for more reasons than weight loss and this should be respected and explored. One admonition for exercise needs elucidating, while it is a vital component in the quest for a prolonged health span, it cannot overcome the phenomenon of non-homeostatic eating (eating beyond satiety signals and bodily requirements). This may have led Dr.s Phinney and Volek to declare in their book, “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living”, ‘exercise is great for wellbeing but poor for weight loss’. This concept is aptly embodied in the adage, “You can’t outrun a bad diet”.
Ultimately, recommending a diet is easy to do but ensuring the diet is the correct approach requires much more finesse. Without the proper blood work (medical involvement), family history (repeated interviews), assessment of health literacy (objective tests), ability to shop, prepare, serve, preserve, and store foods (skills mastery), and a good dose of behavior modification techniques, then the recommendation is incorrectly administered. Speak to a nutritional consultant today and start your informed journey to maximizing your health span, and beyond.
C Doussett MPH, RDN