NUTRITIONAL FACT OR FICTION – WHAT TO BELIEVE?
There is always a new diet in the media with a headline claiming they have the ultimate answer for weight loss. Recently, it’s been approaches like Low Carb, Paleo and Ketogenic. The truth is a bit messier and a whole lot more complicated than is often claimed.
WHERE DO THESE ARTICLES GET THEIR INFORMATION FROM?
Sometimes diet approaches in the media are based on an individual’s personal weight loss or health journey. This type of anecdotal evidence is very compelling – particularly if it’s from a source that seems well informed, intelligent and someone that we rate. Unfortunately, in nutrition what works for one person might not work for everyone. And even with a success story, there might have been other factors, variables in the “group of one” experiment that were unaccounted for or that even went unnoticed.
CELEBRITY WEIGHT LOSS
Here’s a simple example of what I mean: Let’s call her “Kim”, from down the road, loses 30 kilos. She is amazing, she’s looking and feeling great and seems really happy. Let’s say she achieved this weight loss by cutting out bread and grains. Effectively, any diet that eliminates any single part of our intake is probably going to lead to a reduction in calories and weight loss. So, Donna cuts out bread and sees change in her body and starts to lose weight. She’s very determined to reach her goal by her wedding day.
Because she’s waking up feeling so good, she starts to exercise. Because she’s exercising she starts to sleep better than she ever has. And because she’s feeling more energetic and better about how she looks, she starts going to the gym. Her muscle mass then increases and so does her energy burning or metabolic rate and she continues to lose weight at a good rate. She is paying heaps more attention to what she eats and making food at home, so she also has quite an increase in her vegetable intake and ended up eating more protein as well. So, already in our simple example, we see there might be other factors or other “variables” which also contributed to Donna’s weight loss. But, if you ask Donna what she did, she might say, “I cut out bread”.
NUTRITION – A NEW SCIENCE
Nutritional science is a young science and although we do know quite a lot about how food works in the body, there is also a lot more that we need to discover and are striving to understand. It is because the science is so new that the information is often conflicting and changes over time. 50 years ago, the claim was that fat was bad for you and to avoid eating anything fatty. The advice was also to avoid eggs if you had high cholesterol. We now understand that fat is an essential part of the diet and it’s not about how much cholesterol you ingest, but what your body does with it.
Sifting through all the information and deciding which studies to believe is often challenging, even for nutritionists. Adding to that challenge is the fact that over half of the information available on the internet is simply misleading or false. That’s why so many of my well-informed clients are confused by it all. The more research you do, the more conflicting information you’ll find.
HOW TO ASSESS A SCIENTIFICALLY-BASED STUDY
Even when assessing whether to pay attention to clinical studies everything must be considered.
One – You must consider the number and type of people in the study. For example, where they overweight? Did they have diabetes? What’s their cultural background? Where they male or female? Did they exercise and if so how much?
Two – What did the experiment consist of? If it was to test low carbohydrate and weight loss, how many grams of carbohydrate was allowed? If it was 40 grams per day, was that high or low GI and was what time of the day was it eaten. Was it eaten with other foods? What were the parameters set for the intake of protein and fats?
Three – Was there a control group used?
Four – How was the success measured? If the study was about carbs and weight loss, did they measure total weight or body composition as well? In other words, were they concerned with health indicators, or only weight loss? If body composition was measured, how was it measured?
Five – Who paid for the study? Was there any bias or conflict of interest?
All of these factors are important when deciding if the study was a) a valid one, b) might apply to you, and c) what the conclusions actually mean.
WHERE DOES THE TRUTH LIE?
Low Carb may be a good approach for you, or it might be something else. You must take the time to make some changes and see what works for you.
Taking the advice of a nutritionist can be really helpful. Not only can I advise you on what is safe and scientifically proven, but also help coach you from where you are now to your ultimate goal. Because it’s not only knowing what to do but HOW to do it. I can help you by just being there to keep you on track and keep you honest while we assess what works best for you – for your body, your habits, your preferences.
WILL A LOW CARB APPROACH WORK FOR YOU?
Essentially, we get the majority of our caloric intake from carbohydrate, so cutting back on carbs is an easy place to start. Carbs are often also the place we turn when in a hurry. Bread, pasta, muesli bars, chocolate, chips, slices etc.. and many of these “quick” foods are sweet and full of empty calories. Finding alternatives to these “go to” snack foods is another good place to find improvements.
So, yes, a lower carb approach might work for you. It worked for my clients, Sarah, and Linda. Why not make an appointment and see if it’s right for you?
Let me help you decipher Fact from Fiction and come to see me for an appointment. I love simplifying things for my clients and making healthy change easy and incremental.